The Benefits of Prenatal Massage and Why Its Different

Benefits of prenatal massage

Benefits of prenatal massage

By Donna Maurer. For more, contact her via

Muscle cramps, fatigue, nausea, back pain, swollen feet, and heartburn! Creating life is a natural process, but that doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. While some women feel great throughout their entire pregnancy, others experience every discomfort in the book. Thankfully, there are several steps a mom-to-be can take that will relieve their discomfort. Eating a healthy, nutritious diet, gentle exercise like walking and yoga, and prenatal massage can all make pregnancy much more pleasant.

For an expecting mom, prenatal massage offers physiological, emotional, and psychological benefits. It’s different from a regular massage because it focuses on the particular needs of a mom-to-be as her body goes through the dramatic changes of pregnancy. A qualified prenatal massage therapist knows how to adapt the technique for a pregnant woman in each trimester of her pregnancy.

For the pregnant woman, prenatal massage can relieve mental and physical fatigue, improve circulation and blood flow, improve the function of sore or stiff joints and muscles. This non-invasive and gentle form of therapeutic bodywork can also ease the discomforts of pregnancy while nurturing the emotional needs of the pregnant mother and helping her get ready for labor and delivery.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at how prenatal massage can help during every stage of pregnancy.

The Benefits of Prenatal Massage During Every Stage of Pregnancy

Prenatal massage offers benefits for both mom and baby throughout the entire pregnancy. When you are expecting, everything you do, especially what you eat and how you exercise, could affect your growing baby. There is a direct connection between the mother’s state of mind the healthy development of the baby. Common pregnancy complications, such as uterine prolapse, scar tissue, and incontinence, can also be prevented by keeping your uterus and ligaments healthy with prenatal massage.

One study even found evidence that receiving prenatal massage regularly throughout pregnancy can shorten delivery times and make labor more comfortable, possibly reducing the need for epidurals and other pain medications. The same study also shows that receiving massage as a regular part of prenatal care reduced the need for cesarean births by half.

Other key benefits include:

  • Reduced stress levels and fewer insomnia issues because of the increased relaxation
  • Relief of hormone-induced anxiety and depression
  • Less edema, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, fatigue, and digestive problems
  • Reduced hip and joint pain, sciatica, headaches, leg cramps, muscle spasms, and lower back pain
  • Reduction of stress on the joints and muscles
  • Fewer stretch marks because skin and underlying tissues are more pliable
  • Supports circulation and blood flow for both mother and baby

First Trimester Benefits

It used to be that prenatal massage wasn’t recommended for women in their first trimester, but that’s no longer the case. Recent studies show that proper prenatal massage by a qualified practitioner can have tremendous benefits at this stage of pregnancy. And, a healthy first trimester sets a good foundation for a healthy pregnancy, baby, and delivery.

Prenatal massage during the first trimester will focus mainly on correcting pre-existing problems like back, pelvic, neck, or shoulder pain that could worsen as the pregnancy progresses. Relieving these problems now will help your body adapt to the rapid changes that come with creating a new life.

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This stage of pregnancy also brings a whole host of symptoms due to the sudden influx of pregnancy hormones. Prenatal massage can provide significant relief for many of these symptoms, including morning sickness, constipation, and headaches.

Second Trimester Benefits

As you enter the second trimester of pregnancy, things settle down a bit, and those initial discomforts begin to subside. However, your belly is also growing at a rapid rate, and as your center of gravity is thrown off, back pain can become a problem. Prenatal massage at this stage can relieve tenseness in the muscles and improve your posture and alignment.

Now is also the time your massage practitioner will want to focus on supporting the rapidly enlarging uterus as grows from about four ounces to as much as 13 pounds by the end of your pregnancy. Your practitioner will work to keep your ligaments flexible and toned, which will be extremely beneficial for preventing not only pelvic and back pain, but also preterm and back labor.

Third Trimester Benefits

Now that you’ve entered your third trimester, you and your practitioner will be focused on getting ready for labor and delivery. Hormonal changes and weight gain will put additional strain on the ligaments that support your uterus.

The added pressure your bulky uterus puts on your legs and feet may cause swelling or fluid buildup. Your growing uterus is also likely to cause issues with elimination and digestion, and heartburn becomes a daily issue. You may also be experiencing increased anxiety about labor and delivery.

Prenatal massage in the third trimester can be incredibly beneficial for all of these symptoms, and it will also help to keep your stress levels low. Your practitioner will have special pillows and a larger table to make sure you’re comfortable and secure throughout your massage.

Postnatal Massage Benefits

Postnatal massage can offer some incredible benefits after delivery as well. Your body goes through so much during pregnancy and childbirth, and postpartum massage is a great way to support your body and help it get back to normal after your baby is born. It can support proper bladder and digestive function and help get your pelvic floor back into shape. It’s also excellent for coping with the stress and possible depression that often accompany the hormonal changes after pregnancy.

As you can clearly see, prenatal massage can be incredibly helpful throughout every stage of pregnancy and beyond. It’s a non-invasive and safe way to support your mind and body and encourage a comfortable pregnancy and childbirth.

— Update: 30-04-2023 — found an additional article Prenatal massage: what are the benefits and risks? from the website for the keyword benefits of prenatal massage.

Your shoulders ache. Your feet are sore. Your lower back feels like it’s been carrying around another person for the past few months – because, well, it has. The discomforts of pregnancy are often overlooked, but when you’re living with them, they can make completing everyday tasks feel almost impossible. If you’re fed up with the constant aches and pains of pregnancy, you may find yourself wondering whether prenatal massage could offer some relief.

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Prenatal massage is a specific type of massage tailored to help relieve the strains and pains caused by pregnancy. Usually, the massage focuses on the areas of the body that are most affected by pregnancy. This includes the lower back, the mid-back, the calves, the feet, and even the stomach. However, while prenatal massage can help you to feel a little more like your old self, it does come with a few risks – especially if you don’t visit a trained professional. 

If you aren’t keen on the idea of massage, you can have a look at our guide for the best massage guns. Please remember to consult your doctor before using tools like massage guns during pregnancy.

Curious to learn more about whether it’s the right option for you? We spoke to the experts about the benefits and risks of prenatal massage.

What is a prenatal massage?

“Prenatal, or antenatal, massage refers to any form of massage that a woman receives during her pregnancy,” says Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife (opens in new tab). This may involve self-massage, or being massaged by her partner or a professional massage therapist.”

A prenatal massage, also known as a pregnancy massage, is a massage designed to relieve the pain and discomfort that can occur in various areas of the body during pregnancy. Women are able to receive regular massages during their first trimester. In the second and third trimester, pregnant women should receive special prenatal massages. The therapist should use a special table designed to accommodate the woman’s changing body shape. Sometimes, prenatal massages are conducted with the woman lying on her side.

  • Related: Does massage help arthritis?

A prenatal massage typically focuses on the areas of the body that are most affected by the pregnancy. Ideally, a prenatal massage session should leave you feeling more aligned and relaxed and should relieve pressure on your lower back, feet, and shoulders.

What are the benefits of prenatal massage?

Prenatal massage has several potential benefits in addition to pain relief. Studies and anecdotal evidence show that other benefits include reduced stress, better sleep, and even a better bond with your child.

Pain and discomfort relief

According to the Office on Women’s Health (OASH) (opens in new tab), pregnancy causes pain primarily in the back, abdomen, groin area, and thighs. It can also occur in the legs. One 2014 study (opens in new tab) found that massage could significantly improve pain in the legs and back.

“It can help to relax the muscles involved in sciatic pain, relieving the discomfort caused by the pinched nerve – as little as 20 minutes of massage per week results in significantly reduced leg and back pain,” says Gilchrist. “Also, massage of the face, neck and shoulders can help to alleviate sinus pressure and headaches caused by tension.”

Reduced swelling

Swelling of the legs and feet is another common symptom of pregnancy. A 2020 study (opens in new tab) found that massage can reduce the fluid build-up that causes this type of swelling. A 2010 study (opens in new tab) also found that a daily 20 minute foot massage could improve ankle and foot swelling during pregnancy.

Improve symptoms of anxiety, depression and postpartum depression

“Women who enjoyed regular massage sessions during their pregnancy not only reported reduced depression and anxiety in the prenatal period, but also had reduced rates of postpartum depression,” Gilchrist says.

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Several studies back this up. A 2004 study (opens in new tab) found that receiving two 20 minute sessions a week beginning in their second trimester reduced depression. A 2020 study (opens in new tab) found that massage may be more effective than other forms of therapy for pregnant women with depression.

Improved sleep

“Massage releases endorphins, which are naturally-occurring hormones that provide feelings of wellbeing and pain-relief,” Gilchrist says. “Endorphins soothe your nervous system, helping you to feel more relaxed and improving your sleep.”

Sleep disruption is a common complaint in the second trimester of pregnancy. A 2019 study (opens in new tab) found that massage could improve sleep patterns and sleep quality. 

Fewer complications during and after labor

“Perineal massage, when performed 3-4 times a week from 34 weeks of pregnancy, can make the perineum – the area of muscle and skin between the vagina and anus – more elastic and reduce the severity of tearing and the need for an episiotomy – a surgical cut to the area to facilitate baby’s birth,” explains Gilchrist.

Additionally, she says, regular massage in pregnancy has been shown to decrease pain in labor and to shorten labor by up to three hours.

(Image credit: Getty)

What are the risks of prenatal massage?

In most cases, prenatal massage is safe and beneficial. However, if you don’t have an experienced massage therapist or you aren’t sure about your medical history, there can be some risks. “Hesitancy from many women to receive a massage or from some therapists to give one during this period is typically rooted in misinformation and conflicting advice, both of which lead to confusion,” says Gilchrist.

  • Avoid deep abdominal massage, especially in the first trimester.
  • Don’t lie on your back after 16 weeks, Instead, the massage should be performed on your side or lying at a 45 degree incline.
  • Prenatal massage may not be appropriate for everyone. Check with your doctor about whether it’s safe for you.
  • Massage isn’t always the best solution for sudden swelling, which may be a sign of preeclampsia. 
  • Avoid deep tissue massage in the legs and upper arms. “This is because pregnancy increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which, sometimes, may not be easily recognized,” says Gilchrist.
  • Avoid the use of certain essential oils, which are not safe to use during pregnancy. Here are some oils that are safe: lavender, geranium, bergamot, frankincense, grapefruit, peppermint and neroli.
  • Related: What is a lymphatic drainage massage and how does it work?


Field, T. (2010). Pregnancy and labor massage, Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 5:2, 177-181. 

Coban, A., & Sirin, A. (2010). Effect of foot massage to decrease physiological lower leg oedema in late pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial in Turkey. International journal of nursing practice, 16(5), 454–460.

Field, T., Diego, M. A., Hernandez-Reif, M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2004). Massage therapy effects on depressed pregnant women. Journal of psychosomatic obstetrics and gynaecology, 25(2), 115–122.

Hall, H. G., Cant, R., Munk, N., Carr, B., Tremayne, A., Weller, C., Fogarty, S., & Lauche, R. (2020). The effectiveness of massage for reducing pregnant women’s anxiety and depression; systematic review and meta-analysis. Midwifery, 90, 102818.

El-Hosary, E., Soliman, H., El-Homosy, S. (2019). Effect of Therapeutic Massage on Relieving Pregnancy Discomforts, IOSR Journal of Nursing and Health Science, 5(4), 57-64.