Massage in the First Trimester


From having been contacted by a few people asking if massage is ‘safe’ to receive during pregnancy (particularly in the first trimester) I felt I should write an article to explain why some therapists feel comfortable (after receiving appropriate training) to work with pregnancy/maternity clients throughout the entire pregnancy and post-natal period.

It is reported that certain activities are not ‘safe’ to do during pregnancy and massage is sometimes included in this. Every activity carries with it an element of risk. The first trimester is a tentative time as there are dramatic physiological changes taking place. Evidence suggests that 10 – 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage with 80% of those being in the first trimester (12 weeks or less). It is for this reason that many professionals avoid working with women in the first trimester. In such an emotional time it is many people may look for a reason why this happened and ask if they could’ve done something to prevent this from happening. The answer is often ‘no’. The foetus is developing all organs, ossifying bones, beginning to beat its heart and move limbs. If something goes wrong during this process then a miscarriage may occur and there is little anyone could do to change these processes or ensure that development proceeds in any other way than it has done. Miscarriages may also occur at the time of implantation, if this process fails then it may be experienced as a late period or even a normal period but not be noticed as abnormal.

With that in mind, the question may arise – why would you work with pregnancy clients in the first trimester? From working with pregnant women I have learned how much massage can support the pregnancy process. The first trimester is full of excitement, it may too come with anxiety and worry and we are often encouraged not to vocalise the pregnancy until after their first scan (around 12 weeks of pregnancy) so the therapist may be one of only a few people who know that the woman is pregnant. This means that the massage session is a time to voice concerns as well as being a place to relax, feel calm and positively focus on the changes taking place. People have also used regular massage sessions to help through nauseous periods. Some people also experience back pain as relaxin and progesterone cause laxity in ligaments and muscles. And as mentioned, this is a safe place to discuss a great swell of emotions that could be experienced at this time.

Recently, one lady reported to me that her friend went for a pregnancy massage elsewhere and for the back massage was laying on her belly – she was in her second trimester and could feel her baby squirming uncomfortably, if you feel uncomfortable you should always listen to your body. Another lady, in her late second trimester and obviously ‘showing’ went for a facial (again elsewhere) and was laid flat on her back which can have serious implication on blood flow to mother and baby, if laying on your back you need to be propped up and supported to minimise pressure on a major vein. At Pulfer Holistics you lay on your side with a comfy bolster for your upper leg to rest on.

It is so important that you begin to trust your and cultivate your instinct; if your body is uncomfortable you should feel empowered to stop and change what you are doing or what is being done to you.

If massage has been a regular feature in your life (as with exercise, work, socialising etc.) and you feel you’d like this to continue through your pregnancy, then by all means do. Some people become pregnant and because of such events as nausea or back pain feel like now would be a good time to start and this too is okay, you just need to find a therapist who has had the appropriate training.

Everyday life is a balance of risks; carrying and giving birth to a baby carries risks, crossing the road carries risk, remaining in a high stress job carries risks. Living is risky, challenging and beautiful. If you’re thinking of having a pregnancy massage feel free to chat to your primary care giver or therapist you intend on seeing, ask questions and do what feels right for you.