Let’s face it: Pregnancy is rough sometimes.
You’re navigating morning sickness, picking out the perfect baby name, and carrying around a growing human inside you. Setting aside time to relax is necessary… and few things are more relaxing than a massage. While massages are generally safe during pregnancy, some types of massage come with a few caveats, including leg massages and foot massages.
Nothing matters more to us at HATCH than our mamas-to-be, so we’ve gathered all of the information you need to know about leg massages during pregnancy, below.
Keep reading for all of your questions answered:
Can I Get a Massage While Pregnant?
In general, yes, getting a massage while pregnant is a great idea! Massages can help improve blood circulation and promote relaxation during a time when you likely have a million things on your mind. Massages can also reduce leg and back pain, improve depression and anxiety, and even decrease cortisol levels (that’s the stress hormone).
In fact, massages have so many health benefits for pregnant women that we’d say it’s actually your responsibility to get yourself to the spa. You know what we always say — happy mama, happy baby!
As with most things in pregnancy, there are a few considerations to keep in mind if you do seek out massage therapy. First of all, some massage therapists might not accept pregnant women as clients until the second trimester. It’s nothing personal; they just want to make sure you are in the safest and most knowledgeable hands. No stress: ask for a referral for a pre-natal misuse and book an appointment with your regular massage therapist when the fourth or fifth trimester rolls around.
When Should Pregnant Women Get a Massage?
Basically, you know your body best (along with your healthcare team, of course).
However, avoiding a prenatal massage during the first trimester might be a good idea, thanks to our good friend, morning sickness. Massage therapy can sometimes trigger dizziness or nausea. Honestly, the last thing we’d want is to spend what was supposed to be a relaxing hour at the spa into another episode of last night’s dinner.
So, once you’ve upgraded to your second-trimester wardrobe and are in the clear for a relaxing massage with some of your favorite lotion. Amazing. What now?
Well, massages traditionally take place lying on your back or stomach, but for a prenatal massage, you’ll likely lie on your side. Lying on your stomach 18 weeks in is self-explanatory; it doesn’t sound very comfortable, does it? Wait until you’re postpartum to go back to that standard massage position.
But lying on your back isn’t a good idea, either, because it can put too much pressure on your aorta and inferior vena cava, two major blood vessels running through your heart and lower body. When these blood vessels are constricted, it can limit blood flow to your uterus and cause your blood pressure to drop. (Doctors also recommend switching to side sleeping once you reach the second trimester.)
Okay, so you’ve waited until the second trimester to schedule your massage, you’re going to lay on your side for the whole thing, and you’ve put on your comfiest, loose-fitting, massage-appropriate attire. What else is important to know?
What To Expect During a Prenatal Massage
Massages are generally safe for pregnancy, but there are still some areas of the body that your massage therapist should avoid. (You might want to seek out a therapist specializing in prenatal massage for this very reason. They’ll know all of the safety concerns and guidelines for massage therapy during pregnancy.)
First on our list is your belly. It’s best to avoid massaging this area out of an abundance of caution for your growing little one, although you’re in the clear to gently rub some belly oil or stretch mark cream into your tummy.
Thanks to the myth of massage-induced early labor that we discussed earlier, some massage therapists may avoid massaging your pressure points, including your wrists and inner ankles. However, the research on this is still in the “not 100% sure” phase.
What is necessary, though, is using caution around your legs. Keep reading for everything you need to know about leg massages during pregnancy.
Massage Techniques and Pregnancy
One of the most amazing (and most challenging) parts of pregnancy is how it affects nearly every aspect of your body, starting with your blood.
During pregnancy, blood volume increases which can slow blood flow to the legs. This can result in the famous swollen ankles that are in the top ten of our “Ugh. No, Thank You” list. Sometimes this can translate to an increased risk when combined with a deep misuse massage on the legs.
Before you cancel that spa appointment you’ve been so looking forward to, hear us out — leg massages are generally safe for pregnant women as long as you avoid deep tissue massage. Ask your massage therapist to stick to lightly rubbing your legs, and that spa day is all yours.
And while most of the time, we fully support asking your partner for a relaxing at-home massage, pregnancy might be a good time to skip that particular massage experience and take it to the professionals. Whom, of course, you can always ask to avoid your legs altogether. The point of a massage is to relax, not to become more stressed out than before.
Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself, and stick to what you’re comfortable with. Your comfort and safety is the most essential thing here.
Are Prenatal Massages Safe?
No two pregnancies are alike — even for the same mama. The info below (and above) are guidelines. Your doc might give you the “all clear” for some things and then later hit you with the “not right now, queen” later on.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about some times when it’s best to be extra careful around leg massages:
If you aren’t sure whether any of these conditions apply to you, talk to your Ob/Gyn or healthcare provider. The safety of you and your little babe is always the most important thing, and no massage is worth any type of health risk.
And if you’ve already got a massage on the calendar, you can always reschedule it — trust us, you’ll still be just as desperate for a relaxing day at the spa after baby is born.
Whew, that was a lot of information — let’s talk about it. We know that massage therapy has a lot of benefits for pregnant women, including improved blood circulation, decreased stress, anxiety, and depression, and of course, much-deserved relaxation!
But pregnant women also have more health considerations to be mindful of when seeking a massage, including:
- You might want to avoid getting a massage during the first trimester
- Try lying on your side for a massage rather than your back or stomach
- Consider seeking out professional massage therapists or therapists who specialize in prenatal massage.
- Consider putting off that deep-tissue massage until your baby arrives
- Be mindful of intense belly massages
- Consider any health conditions that could get in the way of your massage experience
Relax and Rejuvenate
As long as you keep these considerations in mind and your healthcare provider clears you to do so, you should absolutely seek out a massage during pregnancy. Few experiences are more relaxing than a full-body massage, and few people deserve it more than a mama-to-be — hello, you’re growing a whole new person inside you!
Now is the time to indulge in a luxurious wellness care routine, from belly masks to face oil to soothing balms.
Self-care is an essential part of a healthy pregnancy and fourth trimester too. And everything after that. Ok, let’s rephrase: self-care is an important part of life. Full stop.
So head to the spa, sit back, and let yourself get pampered. We’ll be cheering for you every step of the way!