Common Myths of Pregnancy Massage

prenatal massage
Massage Therapy during pregnancy is a wonderful way to alleviate discomfort and promote better sleep.

Massage Therapy, at all stages of pregnancy is safe, enjoyable and beneficial. Massage Therapy for pre-natal clients is clouded with many different myths that are often perpetuated by Massage Therapist themselves, likely grounded in liability concerns.  Despite the greater education that RMT’s in Ontario are given, many of these myths still prevail.

The myth that Massage Therapy should be avoided in the first trimester is a result of lack of understanding about miscarriage (the risks and cause). The majority of miscarriages are a result of chromosomal or hormonal abnormalities which make the embryo unviable. As the miscarriage rate is highest in the first trimester, some Massage Therapists are reluctant to provide treatment at this time for fear that they may be blamed. (1)

Myth #1. You must avoid massaging the low back in the first trimester.

The fear for some is that massaging the sacrum area could result in a miscarriage.  The idea behind this is that, since the sacrum covers the nerve plexus that innervates the abdominal organs of the digestive and reproductive tracts, massaging the sacral region may have a stimulating or relaxing effect on this nerve plexus and may somehow dislodge the implanted fetus and cause a miscarriage or pre-term labour.

 LET ME BE CLEAR There have never been any evidence-based clinical trials that conclude or prove massaging the sacrum during 1st trimester, even with high risk pregnant clients, would cause an onset of labour or otherwise create risk to the woman or her fetus.

To put this in perspective, I find it helpful to consider what the sacrum puts up with on a daily basis.  For example, when seated in a vehicle, the sacrum bears repetitive bumping, compression and potentially vibrations.  Moderate exercise, sex, and working outside of the home do not cause miscarriage. If normal activity is not sufficient to cause miscarriage, there is no reason to believe that a relaxing massage would in any way cause it, either.

Myth #2  Massage for the ankles may cause early labour.

Wow!  I really, really wish this one was true! Why?  Because if it were I would be rich.  But seriously, this myth is related to the belief that stimulation of acupressure/acupuncture/reflexology points in the feet/ankles will induce labour. The ‘meridian system’ that is the basis for the connection of the feet to other organs remains without evidence. In a 2014 study, 221 pregnant women (40 weeks) received either acupuncture or observation with acupuncture being administered every other day. The rate of labour induction for the observation group was 20% and 17% for the acupuncture group. (2)

If specifically applied acupuncture every other day is not enough to bring on labour, a relaxing foot and ankle massage is perfectly safe, not to mention enjoyable.

The bottom line: Massage Therapy during pregnancy is safe and valuable.

Pregnancy can be an exhilarating, joyful time. It can also be a time of anxiety, sleepless nights, and joint and muscle discomfort. Massage Therapy provides expecting parents the opportunity to address these concerns.

Every parent-to-be wants to make the very best decisions. You are always the ultimate decision maker in your own health care and you need to be comfortable with the choices you make. I am happy to guide your decision with my knowledge and available evidence and will respect any decision you make.

1 Miscarriage Statistics:

2 J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2014 Jun;27(9):874-8. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2013.845158. Epub 2013 Oct 28.


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