- Karen Stoner, LMT
4 Myths about Prenatal Massage
1. You can't get a massage in the first trimester
Short Answer: Many stories state that getting a massage in the first three months of a pregnancy will cause a miscarriage. This is medically not true. With a properly trained therapist, massage in the 1st trimester is completely safe.
More details: One of the biggest reasons this myth exists is because if anything is going to go wrong with a pregnancy, such as a miscarriage, it is most likely going to happen in the first trimester. This myth has started because bodyworkers, spa owners, and other service-medical professionals didn't want to risk being held responsible if anything were to happen to the mother or baby. The truth is that massage can not cause a miscarriage - there is medically no way that a normally executed professional massage could or should cause any medical issues. However, if one does want to "be super safe" a massage therapist that specializes in Prenatal Massage would be a good choice for a massage during the first trimester.
2. You can't get a massage on your feet, legs, or ankles
Short answer: There is a myth that massaging the feet and ankles can cause pre-term labor. While there are acupressure and reflexology points in the feet and ankles that relate to the reproductive system, these spots need to be worked on in a very specific way to "activate" and they can not cause labor to start.
More details: I once had a prenatal massage where the therapist would not touch my legs or feet in any way, and I was teaching ballet at the time so my feet and legs desperately needed the massage! This myth came from two main locations. One is misinformation regarding acupressure and reflexology - where there are reflex points in the feet and legs that can have an affect on the reproductive organs. However in order for these points to do anything, the point must have sustained pressure for 3-5 seconds on the point directly. This isn't done in a normal massage routine. Also, there is no proof (and there have been studies done) that pressing on these points can "start" labor. There is some research showing that once labor has started, the points can increase the strength of contractions and help labor progress, but they can't start it from nothing. The other part evolved like a game of 'telephone'. Pregnant women were warned to stay away form cheap nail salons so that unclean instruments didn't cause any infections. This evolved into manicures and pedicures, and since some pedicures also involve some small amount of foot massage, the myth evolved into 'pregnant women can't have foot massages'.
3. Massage Can send you into labor
Short answer: Some people hear through the grapevine the line, "I had a massage and that night went into labor" If that is ever the case, it is a pure coincidence. There is no way that massage can "start" labor. The human body doesn't like to start anything "big" if it is under massive amounts of stress, so what massage can do is relax and calm the body so that it is "ready" to get things started on it's own.
More details: Massage can relax the body in many ways. It can be very powerful, but it can not send someone into labor. The body will go into labor when it is ready to do so, and no amount of massage can get ti started. Now, massage can help calm the nervous system and relax the muscles, as well as help all the body's systems to "talk" to one another, and that in turn may allow the body to signal that labor is starting, but the massage itself can't and won't start the labor. Once labor has started, there are acupressure points that can be used to strengthen contractions, but it can't start labor from scratch.
4. Deep Massage can release toxins that will hurt the baby
Short answer: Massage increases circulation and can move stuff around the body like lactic acid and other 'nasty' stuff. However, massage doesn't release enough toxins to have any negative effect on either mom or baby. We do avoid very deep pressure during pregnancy massage more because mom's increased blood volume can result in bruises.
More details: One of the reasons Massage Therapists tell their clients to drink water after a massage is to flush out any toxins and keep them from being too sore the next day. The toxins are only part of the reason - and they are only a small portion of what gets stirred up and moved around during a massage. Actually, lactic acid (the byproduct of muscles moving and working) probably gets released and moved through the body more than any harmful toxins. If any toxins are released, the increased circulation should move those toxins to the kidneys, liver, and lymph nodes (where they need to go to get eliminated from the body) more directly and quickly so shouldn't get anywhere near the baby. That being said, very deep pressure massage isn't used that frequently in prenatal massage. since a pregnant woman's blood volume increases over 50% and the hormone relaxin can affect how her muscles and joints move and stretch, so deep pressure isn't frequently used so that bruises or any other issues are avoided.