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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

Pregnancy and Massage: 1st Trimester

The First Trimester of pregnancy is filled with big changes, both physically and emotionally. Let's take a look at some of the bigger issues and how massage can help.

You may be feeling- Nauseous, tired, achy: Your body has started using and producing a lot of hormones that your body isn't used to, so this can make you feel really out of sorts until your body gets used to them. Plus you've started growing a human being! That would make anybody tired since some body systems are now working double, and since there is now a 'foreign object' growing inside the body and making the hormones act weird, the stomach can be a little unsettled until it recognizes and gets used to this "new normal".

How massage helps: Gentle massage can help calm the body, easing achy muscles and can often settle an overactive tummy. Plus, massage can help force you to stop and may provide a mild distraction to allow you to rest.

You may have- Sore and swollen breasts: Hormones are starting to stimulate the glands that will eventually produce milk to feed your new baby, so as that starts working, the breasts may start feeling achy or noticeably tender and different.

How massage helps: If your chest is sore or uncomfortable, it can often cause the shoulders to hunch forward, making the fronts of your shoulders (pectoral muscles) tight and over stretching the back of the neck and shoulders (trapezius muscles). Massage can help balance out these muscles and help you avoid over-stretching or letting them get too tight and achy.

You might be feeling - both excited and terrified: This is an exciting time - you have a little baby to look forward to! But also, there is the fear of so many things - your health, the health of your baby, will you be a good parent, will you be able to afford everything, how will your life change, what am I not thinking of? (FYI: Those fears will stick around for the rest of your patenting life, so don't let them overwhelm you now.) It is completely normal to not feel completely joyous or also to be completely happy - often both extremes in the same day.

How massage helps: Massage can let you take some "me" time and basically shut your brain down for a short time. You can be comforted that you are taking care of yourself while resting and letting yourself restore. Stress is pregnancy's #1 enemy so massage can help reduce some of that stress, if only for a short amount of time.

Is massage safe in the first trimester? In the hands of someone with advanced training specifically in prenatal massage, and if there are no pre-existing or high-risk conditions that doctors are watching, yes - massage in the first trimester is perfectly safe. Many therapists, spas, etc do put out a blanket policy of no bodywork treatments of any kind during the first trimester. This is because in the grand scope of life, the chances of miscarriage are higher the earlier in the pregnancy. However, if a pregnancy miscarries in the first trimester, it is rarely the fault of any external forces - it is something hormonal, chromosomal, or something completely out of anyone's control. It is understandable that some businesses would want to make sure that they are in no possibly way anywhere near the liability of being any way involved in a first trimester, but if the therapist knows what they are doing, the fear and concern disappears. Also, think of it this way: The first trimester lasts approximately 13 weeks. A mother doesn't find out that she's pregnant until she misses her period, approximately 2 weeks after conception. She takes a pregnancy test and calls her doctor. The doctor usually schedules an appointment several weeks later, often either ordering another pregnancy test or doing an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy. So often, a woman's pregnancy isn't even medically confirmed until week 8 - more than halfway through the first trimester - until that point, mom has possibly been doing lots of things, eating and drinking lots of foods, etc that are not recommended to be done during pregnancy before the pregnancy was even realized - and yet we as a human species have survived. Women don't need to be locked in a bubble during the first trimester, and massage is no exception.

How is massage different in the first trimester? In the first trimester, many times there aren't too many body changes, so usually it is still comfortable to lay face down, so the massage positioning doesn't differ too much from a regular massage. A small extra amount of cushioning can be used to keep sore breasts comfortable, or if laying flat is already uncomfortable, a side-lying position with additional cushioning can also be used. The massage itself avoids any deep massage work on the low back or any massage on the abdomen. No percussion strokes are done because of the crazy increased amount of hormones can cause bruising. Mainly the point of the massage is more relaxing and calming, with focused work on any usual problem areas. If you are normally used to regular deep-pressure massages, a deeper pressure can be used, as long as that deep pressure is adjusted over certain areas.

When should massage not be done in the first trimester? If there is a history of miscarriages, bleeding disorders, or any high-risk pregnancy conditions that the doctor is watching, a doctor should be consulted and massage avoided until the condition stabilizes. Also, even though massage can help morning sickness, if the vomiting is severe or hyperemesis gravidarum has been diagnosed, massage will have to be worked around vomiting spells, or a doctor should be consulted before the massage takes place.

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