Author: Selena Belisle, Owner/Instructor, CE Institute LLC, Miami FL
Question: Is Prenatal Massage in the 1st Trimester (or any trimester) Safe?
Answer: YES, when performed by someone who is specially trained in Prenatal Massage
I hear this question a lot - is prenatal massage safe? Or is massaging someone in their 1st trimester safe? The answer is yes it's safe, as long as the therapist is training to work with prenatal conditions. There are some special contraindications with prenatal massage such as toxemia. And there are some specialized positions, skills, strokes and equipment that can be used for prenatal massage clients too. All of this requires specialized prenatal massage training, which can be easily provided in any board approved continuing education class.
So, why do so many people think that massage is not safe in the first trimester of pregnancy? It is mostly because about 1/3 of pregnancies will miscarry, and about 80% of those miscarriages will happen in the first trimester - and there is regularly NO REASON WHATSOEVER to explain the miscarriage. Miscarriages happen in both healthy and unhealthy women, active or sedentary women and so forth. Unfortunately, a pregnant woman who has just miscarried could blame their massage appointment as a reason for why they miscarried. But fortunately for massage therapists, common sense usually prevails when statistics are provided - which show that many pregnancies miscarry whether a woman has a massage, or not.
The safety of a prenatal massage should not be confused with employer or liability insurance requirements. I teach prenatal massage and have been practicing prenatal massage in all trimesters for over 25 years now. I have worked closely with Boston Hospital OBGYN Department Heads to provide prenatal massage to their pregnant clients. But, when I worked at the Ritz Carlton in South Beach, FL, even I was not able to provide prenatal massage for celebrities, or any clients, during their 1st trimester at this hotel. The spa manager told me that it was their liability insurance that would not cover a prenatal massage in the 1st trimester which created their policy to deny 1st trimester prenatal massage appointments - and not because the Ritz felt that a prenatal massage appointment would be unsafe with a trained and licensed therapist. It is important to note that therapists should respect and follow whatever employment policies are provided to them - there are legal remedies to take if you feel your employer is being unfair in their policies, or you can simply find another job where their standards will match with own if you do not agree with what your current employer is telling you to do. I liked my job at the Ritz Carlton so I followed their policies with prenatal massage as requested - even though I thought some were wrong - I understood they made this policy because of their insurance requirements. Once I understood their reason for their decision (total transparency), I was okay in following it. This was a morality and ethical choice on my behalf to continue with the Ritz even when I thought their denial for 1st trimester prenatal massage appointments was wrong. This was a personal choice that I decided to make, and any other therapist would have to make if they were in similar shoes.
Back in the 1990s, I used to own a massage therapy center that employed over 40 Licensed Massage Therapists. We often hired incredible therapists from a local school who taught that all prenatal massage was contraindicated (at least this is what their therapists told us when they continually refused prenatal massage training and clients). So, I called the school and told them we would stop hiring their graduates if they continued providing such bad and erroneous information in their basic training. And today, from what I understand, they no longer teach that pregnant women are contraindicated for massage. Hopefully no school does.
Luckily, today, we have better information about the practice of massage therapy. Massage has become professionally prevalent, and licensed massage therapists are being less associated with other elicit industries. Our professionalism has helped establish the health benefits of our industry over the past 2 decades - which has helped people understand the benefits and qualities of prenatal massage. Unfortunately, because of past teachings that were inaccurate, and because of bad insurance requirements and so forth, we have a lot of misinformation about what is safe (and what's not) with pregnant women and massage.
I hope this BLOG post clears up some of the misinformation that is still being passed and provided today with prenatal massage. Luckily, one of the reasons we have CE hour requirements for licensed professionals, is to gain updated information about our trade. 1st trimester prenatal massage is one of those updates that should be shared - it is safe when the client is not medically contraindicated - all massage modalities have some form of contraindication. There are plentiful reasons why we have misinformation regarding this prenatal massage, but communication and education should get us all on the same page that prenatal massage is safe, including in the 1st trimester, when practiced by a trained prenatal massage therapist.
On a side-note - if you're not comfortable working with pregnant women, then you might not want to seek prenatal training or attempt to provide prenatal service. Each therapist should pursue and practice whatever is in their hearts - because that is sincerely the best practice for all. So, if you're not comfortable practicing on pregnant women, that's okay - but please do not tell others that prenatal massage practice is unsafe. It is not. Prenatal massage is one of the most wonderful relationships a therapist can share with a client, and it should not be prohibited for nefarious reasons.
Please click HERE to learn more about pregnancy massage and available prenatal massage CE classes at CE Institute LLC.
Author Selena Belisle is the Founder of CE Institute LLC in Miami FL. She is a retired professional athlete and has been practicing massage therapy for over 30 years. Selena is an approved CE Provider with NCBTMB & the Florida Board of Massage. She now teaches full time for the Complementary and Alternative Health Care Industries. You can learn more about Selena’s training and CE classes at www.CeInstitute.com