Pregnancy Massage, Part 3 - Positioning Adaptations

Positioning Adaptations during Pregnancy

Massage during pregnancy differs from regular massage. Most forms of pregnancy massage are based on the techniques of Swedish massage. However, adjustments need to be made to consider the sensitivities and physical changes of the pregnant body.

Before we look at these adaptations, it is of the utmost importance that the therapist has a good knowledge of pregnancy and the anatomy of a pregnant woman. Therefore I recommend that a therapist offering pregnancy massage should be professionally trained and qualified in the field of anti-natal massage. Indeed, this is a prerequisite of many insurance companies and professional bodies.

Here are positioning adaptations needed to ensure a safe, comfortable and effective treatment for your client: 

  1. Correct positioning is critical to the safety and well-being of both the mother-to-be and the unborn child. The massage table should be set up so that the client is lying in a semi-reclining position. Extra pillows can be used to provide padding for the clients’ comfort.  

  2. The safest positioning protocol is to have the mother lie first on one side so that the back and hip area can be worked. This is then repeated on the other side. The top leg needs to be aligned horizontally with the hips to avoid the client rolling onto her tummy.  

  3. The client then moves to a supine position with pillows placed under the head and knees to achieve a 45 degree angle. In this way, the treatment can be carried out in a safe and professional manner.  

  4. There are also safety considerations with having the client in the supine position. Compression of the uterus against the inferior vena cava will result in low maternal blood pressure and supine hypertensive syndrome (decreased circulation to both mother and baby.)  

  5. As mentioned Part 2 of this blog, the hormone Relaxin has started to soften the connective tissue in ligaments, tendons and fascia. This leads to instability in the lumbar and pelvic region. Another indication on the vital importance of correct positioning.  

  6. Do NOT use a massage table with a hole cut out for the abdomen. This causes undue stress to the client’s lower back and adds to the pressure already exerted on the uterine ligaments.  

  7. Do NOT have the client in the prone position from the 12th week on-wards  

  8. Pressure points at the wrists and ankles should not be worked as these can stimulate contractions.  

  9. The following oils should be avoided as they may prompt uterine contractions: Oregano, peppermint, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme and, of course, Arnica. 

Some therapists like to use essential oils for pregnancy massage. I refrain from using any essential oils at all for the duration of the pregnancy. Many pregnant women prefer the therapist to use an unscented oil. Pure Pro’s Ultra Massage Oil is the perfect choice for pregnancy massage. It is unscented, light, easily absorbed and extremely nourishing and nurturing for your clients’ skin.

To read my previous blogs on Pregnancy Massage, click here:

Mary – always here to help!