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Is Prenatal Massage Safe?

I went for my first prenatal massage today and the woman refused to massage my lower back. I was so annoyed! Lower back pain was the main reason I went, so this totally defeated the purpose. I basically begged her but she said there was a slight risk of dislodging the placenta so she avoided that area in pregnancy. Also she was barely even touching me, even though I said I liked deep pressure. Am I going to have to wait until after the baby is born? I hope not. I thought prenatal massage was supposed to help? - Where’s the rub?


Dear Where’s the rub,

Your experience is a symptom of a larger societal condition: Pregnant women make people nervous. Often armed with limited – or alarmist-information, people sometimes feel the need to treat pregnant women with kid gloves. And kid glove-handing is not what you’re looking for in a massage.

We’ve always heard that massage can be great in pregnancy, especially for those with lower back pain. We double-checked our info with Susanrachel Condon, midwife and long-time expert in pregnancy massage. She assured us that lower back massage is perfectly safe during normal pregnancy, and that there is no risk of dislodging the placenta during a back massage:

“This is ridiculous. The placenta is not attached to the spine or back muscles. Ever. There is NO risk. Not even theoretically!”

The kind of misinformation you got is so unfortunate. Not only does it deprive you of a much-needed kneading, it has the potential to make women more nervous than they need to be. There’s enough to worry about during pregnancy without being fed scary inaccuracies : especially while you’re paying someone to help you relax!

The fact is that a massage, in pregnancy or otherwise, is only as good as the person giving it. There’s a huge range of expertise when it comes to doing bodywork on pregnant women. The most reliable way to find a good therapist is to ask around for recommendations for a therapist specifically trained in prenatal massage. This way, you can speak to people who have been there, and find out about the therapist’s technique as well as her personality and way of addressing concerns. All of these things are important to a good massage experience. If you don’t have local friends to ask, you can try your OB/midwife’s office, a doula, a childbirth educator or a prenatal yoga teacher. You’ll probably have better luck finding someone really great if you go through the pregnancy and birthing community than if you go through spas in general.

Massage can do so much to lessen the stresses of pregnancy – physical, mental and emotional. You will not have to wait until you give birth to get a good rub down. But you will have to wait until you find someone better to do it!

Have a question? Email beingpregnant@babble.com

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