13 things you need to know about Pregnancy Massage

Any pregnant woman (and any enthusiastic partners) will have heard about the pregnancy massage hype – and its critics. If you type the words into google you are flooded with information telling you this and that, most of which is outdated or written without having any firsthand experience. Well we do have experience and in our opinion pregnancy massage is an effective, instrumental and important aspect of any pregnancy.

This article lays out our top reasons for choosing pregnancy massage, supported by the hard facts (that is, empirical evidence and of course observations from our lovely existing pregnancy massage clients!)

1.      Reduces stress, anxiety and depression symptoms

Perinatal depression is common and carries significant risks to both mother and child. Studies have concluded that massage therapy is significantly associated with reduced depressive symptoms, stress and anxiety in pregnant women and less incidents of prematurity and low birth weights (see here). Want to know exactly how it works? Check out this study for evidence on how massage decreases cortisol levels and increases levels of serotonin and dopamine.

2.      Relieves muscle spasms and cramps

The most common causes of muscle spasms during pregnancy include fatigue, dehydration, lack of stretching or movement or an imbalanced diet. Massage increases flexibility, enhancing the ability to carry the extra weight and relieves spasms and cramps.

3.      May prevent stretch marks

There have been lots of claims that pregnancy massage helps to prevent stretch marks from forming. Many of our clients swear by it, but we haven’t found a good empirical source for this one yet. Let us know what you think in our comments section!

4.      Improves nerve pain

Sciatic nerve pain is common in late stages of pregnancy as the uterus rests on the muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. This pressure spreads tension to the muscles in the leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage therapy helps release the tension on nearby muscles and can significantly reduce sciatic nerve pain with regular treatment.

5.      Alleviates stress on weight-bearing joints, decreasing myofascial pain

During second and third trimesters, a shift in a pregnant women’s centre of mass is inevitable. This causes an increase in lumbar lordosis (a postural position where the nature curve of the lumbar region of the back is slightly or dramatically accentuated). These postural changes are the predominant cause of stress on weight bearing joints such as the lower back and pelvis, and can then become activating or perpetuating factors for myofascial pain. Myofascial pain is that caused by pressure on sensitive points in your muscles (trigger points) that causes seemingly unrelated pain in other parts of your body. Massage therapy has proven to be a safe and effective pain relief option for those suffering from such conditions. During your massage, our practitioners will gently trigger point and stretch out the muscle to improve or remediate myofascial pain. For more information on how massage helps, see this study.

6.      Improves lymphatic circulation, reducing oedema (excess retention of fluid) in hands, legs and feet

Oedema is often caused by circulation problems and increased pressure on the major blood vessels. Massage stimulates soft tissues to reduce fluid retention, which also improves the removal of tissue waste by the body’s lymph system.

7.      Improves blood circulation

Pregnancy massage stimulates blood circulation resulting in improved nutrition, efficient waste removal and reduce pressure of bulging veins. This will increase the mother’s energy and can improve nourishment to your baby.

8.      Relieves tension, fatigue and headaches

The essence of massage therapy is to break down muscle tension, increase relaxation, and promote blood circulation. Increased blood circulation means increase nutrient circulation. This means more energy for you and less chance of a tension, stress or nutrient related headache!

9.      May make breastfeeding easier

Prenatal and perinatal massage reduces tension and muscle tightness which in turn may result in better milk production and easier breastfeeding. The court seems out on a verdict here, but there is plenty of support for this theory. Seehere for more information.

10.    Helps you to sleep better

We all know that massage helps to relax the mind and body, generally resulting in better sleep. However, pregnancy induced insomnia is a whole different playing field. Is massage therapy effective in these instances? We’ve done some research. Early studies into massage for sleep quality and insomnia during pregnancy have revealed that exercise, massage and acupuncture may be associated with improved sleep quality during pregnancy (see here also). However, due to lack of substantive high quality evidence a definitive call can’t be made. But from our client’s perspective, improved sleep quality is definitely a benefit of pregnancy massage.

11.    It helps to develops sensory awareness and relaxation necessary for childbirth

The nurturing touch of a qualified pregnancy practitioner can help the mother develop the sensory awareness and relaxation that will assist a healthy and peaceful labour.

12.    Regulates hormones

The changes it can make to hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and cortisol has been proven to lead to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications. See here for more information.

13.    Decreases labour time, pain and need for medication

A recent study of labour pain showed that women who received massage therapy throughout their pregnancy experienced significantly less pain, and their labours were on average three hours shorter, and with less need for medication. Need I say more? See here to see the study results.

Our Top Tips for Pregnancy Massage

Consult your Doctor prior to seeking massage

While there are many benefits to pregnancy massage, it is always something that should be discussed with your doctor first. Massage therapy can be inappropriate in some pregnancies with particular concerns, including:

  • High risk pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH)
  • Preeclampsia
  • Previous Pre-Term Labour
  • You are experiencing severe swelling, high blood pressure or sudden, severe headaches
  • If you have recently given birth

Know Your Practitioner

It is so important to ensure your treatment is performed by a certified pregnancy massage therapist. Always ask for the therapist’s qualifications before seeking treatment. There are particular pressure points on your body that can stimulate pelvic muscles, including the uterus. A qualified practitioner will know to avoid these areas, and will know how to address specific pregnancy and massage needs.

Share any health concerns with your Massage Practitioner

It is important to share any health concerns you may have, and any pre-existing conditions with your massage practitioner.

With supportive evidence of its safety and a growing research base supporting the practice, pregnancy massage might just be perfect for you and your little peanut!

Our Health Place Practitioner Brooke specialises in pregnancy massage, and you’ll be happy to know we’ve released a pregnancy pack offer (hello discounts!) just in time for Christmas! Call our team on (07) 3852 2434 to make an appointment.


Written by Shana Webster