Kate Sanchez's picture

Common Misconceptions About Pregnancy Massage During the First Trimester by a Pittsburgh Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist

Many pregnant women have been told that during the first trimester massage must be avoided.  Many massage therapists will not book you for a pregnancy massage until the 2nd trimester after they find out that you are 7, 8 or even 9 weeks pregnant when maybe you have just received a massage not only 2 weeks prior.... Why?  Is it true that massage can be so bad for you in the first weeks of pregnancy when we know it’s wonderful health benefits for our over all well being?  When under the care of a Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist, pregnancy massage is not only safe, but can be completely beneficial to mom and baby during these first few weeks of flux.  Many of these misconceptions are due to practitioners receiving contradictory information, or from a simple lack of knowledge, fear, and sadly for liability concerns.

One misconception about massage during the first trimester is that some women suffer from morning sickness and thus cannot be worked on. While this is a valid concern, not all women have morning sickness and the women that do may not have it in the morning or even in this trimester at all. Other women carry morning sickness past their first trimester also. While massage therapists do not usually work on anyone who is nauseous or vomiting, appointments can be made for the mama to be when she is not experiencing any symptoms. Certain points can be worked during these sessions that may reduce the severity of her symptoms.

Other suggestions can be made to the mama to be such as eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day. Eat foods high in protein prior to bedtime so you don’t wake up with an empty stomach. Fresh cut lemons put into a bag and inhaled when needed. Ginger ale, ginger candy and ginger tea. Any mint tea or raspberry leaf tea can also help to settle the stomach. Stimulating the pericardium point 6 acupuncture points of both forearms (located about 1 1/2 inches below the wrist in the middle of the inner forearm) has been found useful in treating the symptoms of morning sickness and nausea. Press and hold the points for a count of 10 and repeat 10 times.

Another misconception is that the abdomen should never be massaged during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is due to the fear of the massage therapist  causing a miscarriage by dislodging the the placenta. Although the placenta is not fully matured until the end of the 3rd month, it is firmly anchored to the uterine wall within weeks into the pregnancy. Only a traumatic shock to the abdomen could cause such a serious injury.

Abdominal massage during all stages of pregnancy should be gentle, which dispels the fear of placental abruption. Massage of a pregnant woman’s abdomen should be extremely light. The stokes are done with open handed effleurage in a slow rhythmical way. Permission must always be granted in order to perform abdominal massage since this can be a very sensitive and emotional area of a woman’s body. 
Perhaps the biggest misconception is that pregnancy massage can cause miscarriage.  This is probably the top reason why a practitioner or spa will refuse to book your appointment until the 2nd trimester. A miscarriage is defined as a spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the fetus is viable, which generally means before 20 weeks gestation. Most miscarriages happen within the first 8 weeks. In early pregnancy, signs of miscarriage are bleeding, abdominal pain and cramping, lower back pain, thigh or pelvic pain. Later in pregnancy the symptoms are heavy bleeding, and intense uterine contractions.    

Miscarriages happen frequently and most cannot be avoided. In nearly half of the known losses, the embryo was chromosomally abnormal and not viable or able to sustain life. This is clearly unrelated to getting a massage. There are other factors that can come into play such as genital and reproductive abnormalities (fibroids, retroversion of the uterus, and bicornuate uterus), infections (rubella, chlamydia, listeria), maternal disease (renal disease, diabetes, thyroid conditions, and nutritional deficiencies), ectopic pregnancies, hormone imbalances resulting in progesterone deficiency, immunological rejection of the fetus(antibodies that destroy the fetus are created), maternal age, and environmental factors (second hand smoke, excessive alcohol consumption). Massage does not factor into any of these causes of miscarriage. The mama to be who has a healthy lifestyle (which includes massage) is more than likely going to have a very successful pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

A therapist that is certified in Prenatal Massage can safely and effectively treat any first trimester concerns. Special thanks to Elaine Stillerman for her knowledge and expertise for with whom I gained my knowledge and expertise in Prenatal, Labor and Postpartum Massage.  Also special thanks to Penny Simkin and Ina May Gaskin for your beautifully written books which continue to inspire and educate me.

If you are living in Pittsburgh and interested in a pregnancy massage or are interested in giving a pregnancy massage gift certificate click here to learn more about pregnancy massage at the Pittsburgh Center for Complementary Health and Healing.


Trackback URL for this post:



Hi there :)
I'm so glad I came across your blog! I also was searching online and found this website.
I hoping for your input to calm my paranoid brain.
I had a heated massage done today for 25 minutes that was a gift from my sister in law. the heated table wasn't enough to make me sweat or anything of a really 'hot' nature by any means.
My concern is this: do you think that something bad/wrong could have been caused by this? I am 5 weeks along now and know I cannot change this event that already happened.
Any insight you have is greatly appreciated.
My mother in law used to be a massage therapist and also was there with me and had a massage as well. She doesn't believe I need to worry about anything whatsoever.
Looking for your opinion. :) thanks so much!


Last week, I had a lower abdominal massage due to my delayed menstraution (I'm 5 days delayed and thought a massage could help me have my period by then. Honestly, I don't want to be pregnant yet so I decided to find somehow who could help me with the situation). I had 2 sessions. On the first day, she gave me light strokes but on the 2nd day she put pressure on my abdomen, I even felt a little pain inside me. I still didn't have my period and learned 3days later that I'm indeed pregnant and decided to keep the baby.

My questions are: Could the massage harm my baby? Nothing happened after the massage, no bleeding just a little pain on my lower abdomen, pain-like I have whenever I have my period but no blood.

And What are the possible causes of wrong way of massaging the abdominal part when pregnant aside from miscarriage? How would I know if I damage my placenta?

Hope you would help me.

Thank you so much!

Hi, I have just done a test which says I am 2-3 weeks pregnant and I am ment to be going for a spa day with my best friend on Thursday for her birthday present from me to which she has added treatment for me as her Christmas present. I really didn't want to be telling anyone this early on but am now scared as to what to do. Can I go in a jacuzzi if I avoid steam and saunas? Help xx

Many thanks for this article.
I would like to have your opinion on my story.
I have done fertility massage during one year : 1 hour per week . The medical analysis were better after one year of massage than before : the quality of the endometrium and the ovulation were better !

Now, I am pregnant for just 3 weeks. It is my first pregnancy and I am really happy. I would like to continue with my therapist the massage (I have already done the massage the first and the second week of pregnancy as I did not know I was pregnant) and in the same time I am afraid. I know that the massage is good for me , but is it good for the embryo ?

I do not know what to do...... Can you please tell me what your opinion on this ?

Thanks a lot

Hello, CONGRATULATIONS! Yes, the massage should be perfectly safe as long as your massage therapist is trained in prenatal massage. As always with any fertility case it is best to consult your doctor, but as long as there are no other risk factors you should be fine. Best of luck & enjoy your pregnancy!

Spa Owner,
Licensed & Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, Reiki Master, Cellular Expansion and Healing Practitioner, Certified Fertility Massage Specialist, Registered Yoga Instructor #MSG002505

Hi im only 8dpo and me and my sister had planned a spa day for her bday... And since im not sure if im pregnant or not will it be ok to get a massage???

I'm 4 weeks, 3 days and had a massage today. I didn't tell her that I am pregnant because we are waiting to tell others. I had no idea certain points may cause miscarriage. In freaking out now because she spent time on my lower back and said it was tight. Am I at an increased risk to miscarry?

Hi, you can definitely receive massage in the first trimester. I DO recommend that you always inform your massage therapist when you are pregnant though. Often we learn about a pregnancy before friends and family so that we can give you the best possible care.

Spa Owner,
Licensed & Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, Reiki Master, Cellular Expansion and Healing Practitioner, Certified Fertility Massage Specialist, Registered Yoga Instructor #MSG002505

You should give proper credit to Massage Today and the author for this... http://www.massagetoday.com/archives/2006/01/11.html

Thank you!

Yoga Instructor, Front Desk Coordinator & Spa Concierge