Sports Massage Therapy

Can You Have a Sports Massage When Pregnant?

Dr. Carl Clarkson
Dr. Carl Clarkson October 20, 2022
Woman in white t shirt holding pregnant belly

Massage offers a whole host of benefits, both physical and mental, to clients, but is it safe during pregnancy? Many women are, rightfully, very cautious during pregnancy - a time when they typically experience increased pain and discomfort and would benefit from massage - in order to minimise the risk of unnecessary complications. But, in this article, we discuss whether or not sports massage (and other more gentle types of massage) are actually safe to have, as well as a few other particularities to keep in mind. 

So, can you have a sports massage when pregnant? Pregnant women can have sports massages relatively safely, but many Massage Therapists and Doctors advise that they wait until the second trimester to reduce the risk of complications. Swedish Massage and Shiatsu are also relatively safe so long as they are conducted by a Pregnancy Massage Therapist.

Read on to learn more about pregnancy massage, its safety throughout pregnancy and its benefits. 

Should You Have a Sports Massage While Pregnant? 

Some medical experts advise clients to avoid firmer massages such as sports massage and deep tissue massage whilst pregnant. However, it is thought to be relatively safe provided that the Massage Therapist avoids using such techniques on the legs or abdomen. 

During pregnancy, a woman’s body drastically changes. For example, blood volume increases by around 50% and blood flow to the legs can become a little sluggish. What’s more, anticoagulants in the blood naturally increase during pregnancy, raising the risk of blood clots in the lower legs. It is advised to avoid sports massage and deep tissue massage in the legs as such firm techniques could dislodge a blood clot. 

With regards to the abdomen, very light pressure is advised, if the area is massaged at all - many Massage Therapists avoid this area due to high risks associated with such techniques. 

However, other, more gentle types of massage may safely be used on the legs. 

That being said, many Massage Therapists refuse to give pregnancy massages during the first trimester due to an increased risk of miscarriage - regardless of the type of massage in question. 

Many primary care Doctors will also advise against pregnancy massage during this period simply because most miscarriages happen during the first trimester, and they are looking to avoid tragic occurrences. However, there is no research that highlights a link between pregnancy massage and miscarriage during the first trimester. 

Pregnancy massage is considered to be safe during the second and third trimesters, provided that precautions are taken and certain techniques (such as sports massage to the legs) are avoided. 

What Type of Massage is Safe During Pregnancy?

Sports massage and deep tissue massage is generally considered to be safe during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, provided that high-risk areas are avoided, and it is conducted by a specially-trained Pregnancy Massage Therapist. 

That being said, there are a number of more gentle types of massage available that are lower-risk and more suitable for pregnancy. In particular;

Swedish Massage

Swedish  massage is considered to be safe during pregnancy. It typically involves long strokes to the muscles and pays attention to joint mobility - something that often causes pain and discomfort during the later stages of pregnancy.

Shiatsu

Shiatsu massages are also generally considered to be safe during pregnancy, but it is advised that clients consult their Doctor before proceeding with an appointment. This type of massage typically involves pressure and tapping on acupressure points to stimulate the body’s natural energy - similar to Acupuncture

We go into more detail about Acupuncture during pregnancy in our recent blogs, How Often Should You Get Acupuncture in the First Trimester? and Does Acupuncture Help with Pregnancy Pain?. Click through to learn more about the safety of Acupuncture during pregnancy and how it benefits expectant mothers. 

Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

Whilst research into pregnancy massage benefits is thin, it is currently thought that massage during pregnancy may offer the following benefits:

  • Lowered anxiety
  • Decreased pain, particularly in the back, legs and joints
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased levels of serotonin and dopamine - the body’s “feel-good” hormones
  • Decreased levels of cortisol - a common indicator of stress

Other Sports Massage Contraindications

In relation to pregnancy, we’ve already discussed how Massager Therapists and Doctors advise against first trimester massage, but there are other contraindications to be aware of, including:

  • High-risk pregnancies
  • Women with particular medical conditions 

More general sports massage contraindications may include: 

  • Open wounds
  • Muscle ruptures and tears
  • Tendon ruptures
  • Burns and chilblains
  • Broken bones
  • Periostitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gout
  • Bursitis
  • Infections
  • Blood clots
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Tumours

Learn more about the sports massage contraindications in our recent blog What are the Contraindications of Sports Massage? where we go into more detail about each contraindication and other adverse reactions. 

Final Thoughts

Sports massage while pregnancy is relatively safe provided that it is conducted by a specialist Pregnancy Massage Therapist, and certain precautions are taken. There are also other types of pregnancy massages that are more gentle, and considered to be relatively safe, such as Swedish Massage and Shiatsu. That being said, it is generally advised that pregnant women avoid massage in general during the first trimester to reduce the risk of miscarriage. Certain areas of the body, such as the legs and abdomen should also be avoided throughout pregnancy to reduce the risk of complications.

Breeze Academy offers a number of Sports Massage Therapy courses for those wishing to train in sports massage. Our courses contain everything you need to safely, competently and confidently provide massage. However, to provide pregnancy massage, candidates would need to take further specialist training.

Take a look at our Level 3 and Level 4 courses today or, if you have prior experience in Physiotherapy or Sports Rehabilitation (including students that have completed at least one year of relevant study), take a look at our Direct to Level 4 course.

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