by Rebecca Overson, LMT, Maternity & Fertility Massage Specialist, Birth Doula, Founder & Director of Salt Lake Prenatal Massage
Just because you CAN get a massage during pregnancy from any licensed massage therapist does not mean you SHOULD.
Think first for a minute about what your reasons are for wanting a massage.
Do you just want to be "pampered" and "relax"? Do you just want a short, 15 minute spot-treatment? If so, you're probably fine to go anywhere for a massage. If your expectations are very low, you probably won't be disappointed.
However, our experience tells us that most pregnant women really DO need SO much more than "pampering"! They are emotional. They aren't sleeping well. They are constantly uncomfortable. Some are actually under a lot of stress. Some are anxious about birth. Some are nervous or shy about their changing, unfamiliar body. They need so much more than a "gentle massage."
There is a vast difference between a massage therapist who "will" work on pregnant women, and a massage therapist who has worked on HUNDREDS of pregnant women.
You should know that most massage schools do NOT cover massage during pregnancy except a brief, maybe 1-2 hour overview of basic precautions.
You should also know that there is no "real" certification for prenatal massage. Here in Utah, to practice massage, you have to hold a license issued by the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. You get this after going to an accredited massage school, graduating, and passing a couple of tests, applying for a license and paying a fee every two years to keep your license current.
So, regarding pregnancy massage specifically - there are a handful of national pregnancy massage experts out there who offer continuing education to licensed massage therapists and massage therapy students on the topic of maternity massage. Those classes might be online only, or they might be as many as 50 hours or more of instruction time, and anywhere in between. There is no "authority" in other words, that determines that a person is qualified and expert and experienced in massage therapy for pregnancy and beyond. Someone who takes such a course receives a certificate of completion. They may or may not have to pass a test. They may or may not have to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. But they will call themselves "Certified in Pregnancy Massage."
Are you with me?
It is therefore up to YOU, the CONSUMER, to understand what you are purchasing when you schedule an appointment for a prenatal massage. At worst - it can be downright dangerous to you and your baby if you go to a massage therapist who does not have a clue. At a minimum, more often than not it is a disappointing experience with someone untrained. Even if the therapist took a class on pregnancy massage, you might be the first pregnant woman they have touched. Experience counts.
We offer this article as a way to help you to understand that there is a difference - many times, a VERY BIG DIFFERENCE - between a massage therapist who will work on a pregnant woman, and a massage therapist who SPECIALIZES in it.
Here are the top ten signs you are about to get a bad Pregnancy Massage:
1. You booked it at a spa, or at a massage chain, or with a massage therapist that does not specifically do prenatal massage. Trust me... you are probably only the fifth pregnant client they've ever worked on. Pretty good chance they will rub lotion on you gently and if you are at a spa, you will pay way more than you need to for that kind of favor. ;) (Keep in mind that Prenatal Massage at a spa is likely to be more of a novelty - definitely not a specialty.)
2. They tell you that prenatal massage is a very light-touch massage, that they have to be very gentle with you, and no deep pressure work is allowed anywhere on your body. (This is simply not true.)
3. They are scrambling around looking for piles of towels and pillows with which to prop you up on your side. (This is a sign that they are NOT prepared, experienced, or equipped for this job.)
4. They insist you lie on your side, even though you are only 12 weeks along, or aren't even showing. (This is a sign that they don't really know much about pregnancy.)
5. They tell you that foot massage can cause a miscarriage, and explain that they can't massage your feet... or your hands.... or your lower back for that matter. (This is a sign they are not savvy about pregnancy, are confused, misinformed, lack experience, and are afraid of hurting you.)
6. They won't let you book an appointment in your first trimester, nor will they book you too late in pregnancy in case you go into labor. (This is a sign that they don't know pregnancy, and are informed more by liability issues than by what is factual. You can totally have a massage WHENEVER YOU WANT in your pregnancy.)
7. They confidently claim the ability to INDUCE or PUT YOU INTO labor with acupressure at the end of your pregnancy. (There's SO much more to it than that... sorry, there is no magic eject button that puts women in labor.)
8. They seem nervous about working on you. Or - clearly overly confident to make up for their true lack of experience. (This is a sign that they are not experienced.)
9. They have a "pregnancy massage table" - a table with a hole in it for your belly. (This is a sign that they haven't done their homework.)
10. They advertise pregnancy massage in a way that seems like pure fluff and "pampering". (This is a sign that they think you are fragile just because you are pregnant.)
Bonus: if anyone has you lie flat on your back after 16-18 weeks of pregnancy, they also lack pure common sense. :)
This article is likely to leave you with a lot of questions.... stay tuned for a follow up article. Comments and Questions Welcome!