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Dispelling the Myth of Avoiding First Trimester Massage

Mary Lou Soto, Licenced Masssage Therapist Sep 19, 2013

Some massage therapists are taught to avoid massaging a pregnant client during the first trimester because it is believed to be dangerous.  There are thoughts that massage could be disruptive to the baby's development, concerns that it could harm the placenta, or that women experiencing fatigue, nausea, or ambivalence about their pregnancy will find massage uncomfortable in some way. 

Many are concerned about causing or being associated with a miscarriage that might occur, since the first trimester is known to be the time of greatest risk for miscarriage.  All of these concerns are unfounded.

The first trimester is a time of great changes on many levels, all the more reason for receiving nurturing touch to help a mother integrate the changes that are occurring.  There is no research that indicates that massage has caused toxic overload in a pregnant person thereby miscarriage. Therapists are aware that massage can stimulate circulation and help flush metabolic waste into the circulatory system.  Acknowledging this effect, many therapists are trained to work less intensely, encourage clients to drink water and inform about soreness. 

Miscarriage is extremely common during the 1st trimester, yet it occurs whether women are massaged or not.  Massage has never been clearly implicated legally or scientifically as a cause of miscarriage.  In the majority of cases, miscarriage occurs because the fetus is nonviable.  Touch to the abdomen , unless intentionally harmful, does not hurt the baby or the mother.  The uterus during the first trimester is low in the pelvis and is not palpable without deep abdominal pressure which is generally contraindicated during pregnancy. Instead, nurturing touch to the abdomen can be extremely relaxing for the mother, and most women feel that the baby is responding in a positive manner if she or he wakes up and starts moving during a belly rub.

While miscarriages do occur frequently in the first trimester, it is rarely a reason to avoid massage.  It is appropriate to use precautions if a mother has a history of 3 or more consecutive miscarriages in the first trimester or is currently having miscarriage risks. In this case, while a full body (Type 1) deep massage might be contraindicated, nurturing energy work and soothing, gentle massage can still be beneficial.  A medical release is highly recommended for clients with this type of history.  

Massage to the legs, feet and belly during the first trimester does not cause miscarriage.  There are acupressure points in the lower legs and feet that are contraindicated for acupressure and acupuncture, but general massage to these acupressure points areas will not stimulate them similarly.

The first trimester is a time when a woman often experiences enormous fatigue, confusing emotions and a flood of new sensations as her body surges with hormones.  Massage can actually be a wonderful tool to help your client feel more unified and grounded in her experience of pregnancy.  Acupressure points, energy work and massage can help decrease a woman’s nausea and increase her sense of grounding and vitality.  Massage can support the woman’s physiology, improving hormonal function and supporting the healthy development of placenta and baby.  Bodywork is not a cause of placental dysfunctions or fetal anomalies. 

Massage in the first trimester should not generally be exceptionally deep and stimulating if it is a first time.  It should not be avoided due to nausea as many studies indicate massage can help to reduce nausea.  Usually, massage during the first trimester can help decrease anxiety and help a woman relax, have focused time to process the fact that she is pregnant, and offer her a wonderful way to enter into her new pregnancy.

First trimester bodywork has some other considerations to keep in mind.  A health history is always important to obtain.  Deep abdominal work is contraindicated.  But for the majority of women, nurturing touch and manual therapy during the first trimester can offer wonderful musculoskeletal and circulatory benefits as well as comfort, reassurance, and relaxation that should not be missed.

 

[Taken from “Nurturing Massage for Pregnancy – A Practical Guide to Bodywork for the Perinatal Cycle  by Leslie Stager]

Share your thoughts, leave a comment!

Comments (23)

R on Jul 18, 2015
How can you post an article like this then kick out a pregnant person??? Beyond disappointed and angry.

bonnie on Feb 24, 2016
i'm an lmt in first trimester of second pregnancy. my son is 18months old and my pregnancy with him was a breeze compared to the fatigue nausea and morning sickness i've experienced in this first 10weeks of pregnancy. i really appreciate your article and hope to get a massage for myself asap!

Annie (Lemon Pilates & Wellness) on Mar 03, 2016
Fabulous article I forward people to if they are worried about contradictory advice they have been given. Thanks for posting!

Oz on Mar 03, 2016
I read this article thinking my wife could get a massage during her first trimester at our local Elements location but called and they say no. Confused...

JFK on Mar 19, 2016
I am an award winning LMT and I would HIGHLY dis advise doing any massage til after first trimester. Liability and the high chance of miscarriage is too much for MT to possibly be blamed for. Safe than sorry. You dont want that on your conscious if it happens.

Sunny Gambardello on Mar 24, 2016
I truly believe that if a pregnant woman gets a prenatal massage during the first trimester no harm will come of. I have been a LMT for 20 yrs and I have massages many women in their first trimester and no one ever had a miscarriage. I even used prenatal pillows for the clients in the second and third trimester so they could be comfortable on the table. My understanding is as long as you don't massage the lower abdomen then you will do no harm.

L on May 24, 2016
I also called the local (Boulder) Elements Massage place, and they strongly advised against it. I called them to schedule because I saw this article on the site and thought they would be happy to schedule a massage. Very confused by the mixed messages.

Rev Pamela on Aug 28, 2016
Thanks for writing this because I have my God daughter told me she went to get a massage and they would not massage her and now she feared she would or could have a miscarriage if she gets a massage in her first trimester. I'll pass this along to her and many more women.

HK on Sep 20, 2016
I was also surprised to find this article after being told by my local Elements today that they do not do massage in the first trimester.

Mrs Ebrahim Khalilah on Nov 02, 2016
Wow i am so happy to write this testimony about this Great Dr Uzaba for what he did for me,i have read some testimony how he help alot of people my problem was that the first time i got pregnant it got miscarriage second time the same thing happen that was 2008 since then i was not able to get pregnant i try alot of doctor and herbal doctor no one could help me,when i can in contact with this Great Dr Uzaba i told him every thing he told me that he will prepare some herbal herbs and he will do some prayer for me so that once i take the herbs that everything will work out well for me,after taking the herbs for 6days can you believe that today i am a mother of 3kids and no more miscarriage all thanks to him.

contact him on Email:spiritualuzabatemple@gmail.com or call+2349031695243

Thanks

Mrs Ebrahim Khalilah from England

B on Dec 15, 2016
Just tried to get a massage at elements in Plano, TX and was turned away because I'm in my first trimester. Probably shouldn't have this article on an elements website and then turn people away. I just wanted something to help the fatigue!

B on Dec 15, 2016
Just tried to get a massage at elements in Plano, TX and was turned away because I'm in my first trimester. Probably shouldn't have this article on an elements website and then turn people away. I just wanted something to help the fatigue!

M on Feb 09, 2017
Hi there, good article - thanks for this. I think that a lot of places may turn pregnant women away due to insurance purposes, not that massage can't be given in the first trimester. I think it's more a case of covering themselves, just in case anything were to happen? My personal trainer has basically said that for my personal training sessions - I'm not allowed in his gym till after the first trimester and scan and go ahead from Dr. He said it was for insurance reasons as well as the fact we should be giving the bambino every chance...bit annoying as I love my exercise but you do what you need to! I'm nearly 6 weeks and I'm hoping he/she is bedding in well and in for the long haul here! I am going for a massage next week, I've been told it's only going to be a relaxing massage and no stomach massage at all - which is fine with me, I think if they know their stuff it will be fine.

SUSAN BRIAN on Feb 18, 2017
Hi everyone,i am here to let you all know how i got my children with the help of Dr OGUNDU herbal center.It was exactly two years of not having a child of my own,me and my husband went to different medical Doctors for check up but still there was no complain about the both of us.I read a testimony of how a lady that was wihtout a child for 8 years got one after taking Dr OGUNDU Herbs,so i contacted him without wasting time.He gave me some roots and herbs syrup and told me that i will be pregnant in less that a month.Exact two weeks,i went to the Doctor and i was confirm pregnant.I am so happy to let you all know that i am a mother of twin(Boy and Girl).What are you waiting for,contact him for your own testimony on: Contact him on:ogunduherbalcenter@yahoo.com

SUSAN BRIAN on Mar 03, 2017
Hi everyone,i am here to let you all know how i got my children with the help of Dr OGUNDU herbal center.It was exactly two years of not having a child of my own,me and my husband went to different medical Doctors for check up but still there was no complain about the both of us.I read a testimony of how a lady that was wihtout a child for 8 years got one after taking Dr OGUNDU Herbs,so i contacted him without wasting time.He gave me some roots and herbs syrup and told me that i will be pregnant in less that a month.Exact two weeks,i went to the Doctor and i was confirm pregnant.I am so happy to let you all know that i am a mother of twin(Boy and Girl).What are you waiting for,contact him for your own testimony on: Contact him on:ogunduherbalcenter@yahoo.com

SUSAN BRIAN on Mar 07, 2017
Hi everyone,i am here to let you all know how i got my children with the help of Dr OGUNDU herbal center.It was exactly two years of not having a child of my own,me and my husband went to different medical Doctors for check up but still there was no complain about the both of us.I read a testimony of how a lady that was wihtout a child for 8 years got one after taking Dr OGUNDU Herbs,so i contacted him without wasting time.He gave me some roots and herbs syrup and told me that i will be pregnant in less that a month.Exact two weeks,i went to the Doctor and i was confirm pregnant.I am so happy to let you all know that i am a mother of twin(Boy and Girl).What are you waiting for,contact him for your own testimony on: Contact him on:ogunduherbalcenter@yahoo.com

SUSAN BRIAN on Mar 07, 2017
Hi everyone,i am here to let you all know how i got my children with the help of Dr OGUNDU herbal center.It was exactly two years of not having a child of my own,me and my husband went to different medical Doctors for check up but still there was no complain about the both of us.I read a testimony of how a lady that was wihtout a child for 8 years got one after taking Dr OGUNDU Herbs,so i contacted him without wasting time.He gave me some roots and herbs syrup and told me that i will be pregnant in less that a month.Exact two weeks,i went to the Doctor and i was confirm pregnant.I am so happy to let you all know that i am a mother of twin(Boy and Girl).What are you waiting for,contact him for your own testimony on: Contact him on:ogunduherbalcenter@yahoo.com

SUSAN BRIAN on Mar 07, 2017
Hi everyone,i am here to let you all know how i got my children with the help of Dr OGUNDU herbal center.It was exactly two years of not having a child of my own,me and my husband went to different medical Doctors for check up but still there was no complain about the both of us.I read a testimony of how a lady that was wihtout a child for 8 years got one after taking Dr OGUNDU Herbs,so i contacted him without wasting time.He gave me some roots and herbs syrup and told me that i will be pregnant in less that a month.Exact two weeks,i went to the Doctor and i was confirm pregnant.I am so happy to let you all know that i am a mother of twin(Boy and Girl).What are you waiting for,contact him for your own testimony on: Contact him on:ogunduherbalcenter@yahoo.com

SUSAN BRIAN on Mar 16, 2017
Hi everyone,i am here to let you all know how i got my children with the
help of Dr OGUNDU herbal center.It was exactly two years of not having a
child of my own,me and my husband went to different medical Doctors for
check up but still there was no complain about the both of us.I read a
testimony of how a lady that was wihtout a child for 8 years got one
after taking Dr OGUNDU Herbs,so i contacted him without wasting time.He
gave me some roots and herbs syrup and told me that i will be pregnant
in less that a month.Exact two weeks,i went to the Doctor and i was
confirm pregnant.I am so happy to let you all know that i am a mother of
twin(Boy and Girl).What are you waiting for,contact him for your own
testimony on: Contact him on:ogunduherbalcenter@yahoo.com

SUSAN BRIAN on Mar 16, 2017
Hi everyone,i am here to let you all know how i got my children with the
help of Dr OGUNDU herbal center.It was exactly two years of not having a
child of my own,me and my husband went to different medical Doctors for
check up but still there was no complain about the both of us.I read a
testimony of how a lady that was wihtout a child for 8 years got one
after taking Dr OGUNDU Herbs,so i contacted him without wasting time.He
gave me some roots and herbs syrup and told me that i will be pregnant
in less that a month.Exact two weeks,i went to the Doctor and i was
confirm pregnant.I am so happy to let you all know that i am a mother of
twin(Boy and Girl).What are you waiting for,contact him for your own
testimony on: Contact him on:ogunduherbalcenter@yahoo.com

Kimberly Holloway on Apr 08, 2017
This is rather contradictory to what type business actually practices. I am 11 weeks pregnant & I was told at my appointment that I couple not get my prenatal massage. This is upsetting because it was on my birthday weekend & looking forward to the release of tension. You have already debited your payment out of account yet, I am without a massage. Seriously considering a more compassionate company that practices what they preach.

Rhiannon on May 31, 2017
Wow. Seems I'm not the only one who's surprised to have this pop up after a search on prenatal massage in first trimester. I was just turned away by the Elements location in Franklin, TN because of being in my first trimester. While I understand and appreciate the caution, perhaps a pop-up window should display, or even some fine print with an asterisk, when booking a prenatal massage, so others don't waste their time planning for an appointment only to be turned away?

Shannon Wright on Jun 27, 2017
I do appreciate the information but would recommend that you make your policy more clear. I was just instructed by your office in Concord, NH to not schedule the apt I requested for today because I am attempting to become pregnant and will not know for another week or so. I was told your policy is no massages within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.