The truth is that, yes, a pregnant woman does need to be careful when selection a massage practitioner–in any trimester–but under the direction of a trained prenatal massage therapist, a first trimester massage is perfectly safe.
I talked with one of my favorite Manhattan prenatal massage therapists, Janet V. Markovits of Maternal Massage and More, about the benefits of a massage in the first trimester, and she mentioned some interesting benefits of massage in the first trimester that go beyond stress relief and relaxation (not that there’s anything wrong with that):
1. Upper back pain. In the first trimester, most women’s breasts have already grown significantly, increasing the chance for upper back pain. A massage therapist can address the tension and tightness caused by the extra weight.
2. Constipation. Constipation affects a lot of women in the first trimester, and massage–especially regular ones–can help keep things regular.
3. Hormonal changes and stress. This one probably won’t surprise you. The first trimester is an especially grueling time for one’s mental state. It’s tough feeling like crap, especially if you haven’t shared the big news yet. A massage is a great place to just let it all go.
4. Migraines and headaches. I think of pregnancy migraines as especially cruel tricks of nature. To have such debilitating pain and not be able to take pain meds is a tough pill to swallow. Massage is incredibly helpful in relieving and preventing headaches, many of which are caused by back and neck tension.
5. A friend to talk to. Prenatal massage therapists aren’t therapists-therapists, but they have helped a lot of women through pregnancy and usually have a lot of great advice on getting through a pregnancy in a healthy and happy manner.
If you are in Manhattan or Brooklyn and looking for a therapist for prenatal, labor, postpartum or baby massage, Maternal Massage and More is an excellent place to start. I first ran into Janet when I was doing a piece for my old job on prenatal massages in New York and reconnected with her for the first massage of my second pregnancy. Having just spent two weeks caring for my son while my husband was on vacation–enduring a migraine and killer chest cold in the process–her firm but gentle massage technique was a true gift. She uses lots of bolsters that allow pregnant women to lie flat on their stomach at any stage of pregnancy–just one more reason to splurge on a massage in any trimester.