Prenatal Massage

Prenatal or pregnancy massage addresses the changing needs of women during pregnancy.

Research has shown massage to be greatly beneficial, and in general, very safe for pregnant women. You may be surprised to know that the developing baby benefits as well.

Emotional Nurturing

Pregnancy is an exciting and anxious time for most women, a time of transition and metamorphoses. For some this is even experienced as a rite of passage into a new form of womanhood. The connection between the emotions and the body are very strong throughout this time. The emotional nurturing and centering that happens during massage cannot be undervalued for women who commonly feel a new vulnerability and lack of control in their life, not to mention the sweeping tide of pregnancy-related hormones. For the medically minded, let it be noted that massage produces endorphins, lowers catecholamines (stress hormones), and can lower blood pressure.

Reduced Back Pain

As a fetus grows in utero, the woman's muscular and skeletal systems instinctively adjust to her new center of gravity. The muscles used to keep her upright begin to work harder as the pregnancy progresses, creating a buildup of lactic acid and other waste. Those by-products adhere muscle fibers together, which in turn irritates the nerve endings and causes pain. Massage relieves that pain by gently breaking up the adhesions, releasing trigger points caused by irritated nerve bundles, and pushing circulation into the area to increase oxygen and flush out waste. The lumbar pain caused by postural distortion is a commonly known example of this, but many women are taken by surprise by upper back pain in the first trimester resulting from a sudden increase in breast size.

Reduced Joint Pain

The weight of the baby and an increase in blood volume, interstitial fluid (edema or swelling) and intrauterine fluid combine to add significant pressure on the hip, knee and ankle joints of expecting women. In addition, the increase in production of the hormone relaxin (which the body uses to prepare for labor) causes a loosening of the connective tissue around those joints and creates instability. Massage reduces edema and creates circulation around those joints to reduce pain.

Reduced Sciatica Pain

Though not the classical diagnosed sciatica in the majority of cases, "pregnancy-induced sciatica" is pain radiating from the low back down one leg. This pain can be so severe as to prevent walking. Usually this is a result of specific muscles adapting to the new pregnancy posture that successfully keeps a pregnant woman upright but simultaneously compresses the sciatic nerve. Massage loosens those muscles and releases pressure on the nerve.  There are also exercises that help stretch muscles in the hip area which can help manage the pain of pregnancy induced sciatica. 


In 1999, Dr. Tiffany Fields at The Touch Institute at the University of Miami published research results showing that pregnant women who received massage experienced reduced anxiety, improved mood, reduced back pain, and (very precious to the pregnant) increased sleep. The massaged women had fewer complications in labor and fewer premature babies. While research is ongoing in this area, it may be that massage is effective in reducing the stress-related hormone cortisol, which is one indicator of premature infants.

Prenatal massage may go beyond preventing prematurity. Some research shows that maternal stress on the fetus may actually change the way the baby's brain is developed. Studies show that expectant moms who actively work to decrease their stress have babies who are easily calmed and children who socialize well with others. Massage therapy is an excellent way to reduce stress and actively practice a deeper level of relaxation.


There are a few conditions under which women should receive modified massage or avoid massage entirely. Any woman who is considered high-risk should get her obstetrician or midwife's approval before receiving massage.


Tables or cushions with 'belly holes' may strain the uterine ligaments or cause undue pressure on the back and/or belly. 

For this reason, at Balance, massage for the expecting mother is given in a back or side lying position. Good communication is encouraged to help determine which position is most comfortable for you during each visit.  You will be provided with a body pillow and additional support or cushioning as necessary.