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What Are Pregnancy Massage Contraindications?

by
author image Katherine Mariaca
Katherine Mariaca is a professional freelance journalist who specializes in alternative and complementary medicine, and skin and body care treatments. A longtime spa director and VP of skin care companies, Mariaca developed products and services for the spa industry. She earned a B.S. from Tufts and an M.F.A. from Lesley.
What Are Pregnancy Massage Contraindications?
Certain massage modalities should be avoided during pregnancy. Photo Credit massage & spa image by Solovieva Ekaterina from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

There are many changes that happen to a woman’s body during pregnancy. She produces more blood, has an increased tendency for edema, her sense of smell is heightened, spider veins can develop and, as the baby grows and her weight increases, she is easily fatigued and begins to experience a wide range of aches and pains. While it seems obvious that pregnancy would be the perfect time for a soothing massage, there are a number of contraindications that should be considered first.

Acupressure and Reflexology

Avoid certain pressure points during acupressure massage during pregnancy.
Avoid certain pressure points during acupressure massage during pregnancy.

Acupressure and reflexology are two types of massage that focus on pressure points on the body and the hands and feet, respectively. Historically, acupressure and reflexology have been contraindicated on the pressure points associated with the ovaries and uterus.

Blood Clots

Blood clots can form during pregnancy.
Blood clots can form during pregnancy.

Pregnancy disrupts normal blood circulation. Because of the risk of dislodging a blood clot during massage, only gentle pressure is indicated during a pregnancy massage.

Breast Stimulation

The risk of pre-term labor requires additional care.
The risk of pre-term labor requires additional care.

In women with a risk of pre-term labor, massaging the breasts should be avoided, as stimulation can induce uterine contraction.

Cramping or Bleeding

Avoid massage if pelvic or abdominal pain exists.
Avoid massage if pelvic or abdominal pain exists.

Massage is contraindicated for pregnant woman who are experiencing cramping, bleeding or abdominal or pelvic pain.

Essential Oils Used in Massage

Many essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy.
Many essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy.

Most essential oils are contraindicated during the first trimester of pregnancy simply because pregnant woman are prone to nausea. In her book “Nurturing Massage for Pregnancy,” perinatal massage instructor Leslie Stager lists rose, geranium, rosemary, chamomile and lavender as contraindicated during the entire pregnancy. Earthy Family includes frankincense and melissa as essential oils to avoid during the first trimester, and 22 other essential oils to avoid during the entire pregnancy.

High-Risk Pregnancy

Consult your primary-care physician prior to massage.
Consult your primary-care physician prior to massage.

Certain pregnancies are considered to be high risk. Massage and/or stimulation of the abdomen, legs or other parts of the body may increase the risk to either the mother or the baby. Therefore, massage is contraindicated for high-risk pregnancies unless specified by the woman’s medical practitioner.

Improper Positioning

Improper positioning during massage can cause complications.
Improper positioning during massage can cause complications.

Leslie Stager notes that improper positioning during pregnancy can cause complications for both the baby and the mother and cautions against improper positioning on the massage table. Complications include ligament strain, leg cramps and fainting.

Miscarriage During the First Trimester

The first trimester has increased risks.
The first trimester has increased risks.

The majority of miscarriages occur during the first trimester of pregnancy. Leslie Stager reports that massage during the first trimester of pregnancy is historically contraindicated.

Vein Considerations

Do not massage varicose veins.
Do not massage varicose veins.

Leg massage of a pregnant woman suffering from thrombophlebitis or deep vein thrombosis should never be performed due to the risk of releasing a blood clot. Massage is further contraindicated for women with a history of embolism, or on a varicose vein.

Yoga and Range of Motion

Some massages include yoga poses that pregnant women should avoid.
Some massages include yoga poses that pregnant women should avoid.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine notes that certain yoga poses are contraindicated during pregnancy. A massage that incorporates those poses or range of motion exercises should be avoided.

Contraindicated Massage Modalities

Certain types of massage are contraindicated during pregnancy.
Certain types of massage are contraindicated during pregnancy.

While massage can lessen the aches and pains associated with pregnancy, there are a number of techniques and modalities that should be avoided so as not to put the mother or baby at risk. These include:

Acupressure of points related to the cervix, uterus, abdomen, intestine, spleen and bladder Aromatherapy (some) Deep tissue Lomi-Lomi Lymphatic drainage Rolfing Sports massage Swedish massage (vigorous) Trigger point

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