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Debunking Pregnancy Massage Myths

posted November 30, 2015 by Moms in Tow (Kara)

by Raechel Haller, Massage Sci LLC (Mommy Massage Club)

Q: Is massage safe while pregnant?
A: There are many old wives tales and myths around massage and pregnancy. But there is no evidence that demonstrates massage can induce labor, cause miscarriages, or create complications. 
Physiologically, there is no reason a pregnant woman should not enjoy the benefits of massage as would someone who is not pregnant. Pregnant women are not sick; they do not have an illness that could be worsened through massage. In fact, there is evidence of some pretty wonderful benefits:

Q: What are some of those benefits?
A: Studies have shown pregnant women reported decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain post-massage. 
Cortisol levels (the stress hormone) also decreased, excessive fetal activity decreased, and the rate of prematurity was lower.

Q: What about the feet or ankles? Shouldn't we avoid those areas?
A: It's easy to do a quick Google search and come across countless articles, blogs, and posts that warn against ankle massage while pregnant. But it's way more difficult to find any source for such claims. It's like a big rumor that hasn't fully ran its coarse yet.

There's no evidence that applying pressure to certain points on the feet will cause uterus contractions. This wide-spread myth likely stems from reflexology.

Reflexology is a belief that points on the feet correspond to internal organs, and by pressing or massaging those points, one can stimulate those organs. The supposed points for the uterus and ovaries are on the ankles. Two large scale reviews in both 2009 and 2011 concluded there is no sufficient evidence to support the use of reflexology for any medical condition, let alone inducing labor. 

Also, there was a great study in 2014 in which researchers attempted to induce labor in 221 post-due date women by applying acupuncture needles. Even when poking these gals every other day for a week (that's a lot of poking!), none of the findings supported reflexology claims. If they couldn't induce labor with that amount of poking, surely rubbing the ankles is not going to do the trick.

So not only is there no evidence to back up the myth, there's also no plausible reasoning to explain how it might work. If pressing or massaging ankles did influence labor, it would be risky for pregnant women to simply walk about their daily lives... or even put on most shoes! 

Lastly, if it were just that easy to kickstart the birth process, docs and nurses would be spending much more time on women's feet in the delivery room, and the use of hormones to induce labor would be obsolete. So, let's give a big "Yes, please," to massage for pregnant feet. 

Q: What about women who have known complications? Is massage okay for them?
A: As always, just run it by your doctor. 

Q: What about when the baby bump gets big... are women comfortable on a massage table?
A: We have a variety of pillows and positions available to assist in making sure clients are relaxed during the massage. We do not ask pregnant woman to lay on their stomach unless that is comfortable for them. Most often we treat moms-to-be while they lay on their back, and/or on their side with the support of pillows.

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​Raechel Haller is a Licensed Massage Therapist and owner of Massage Sci LLC, which specialized in effective therapeutic massage. To learn more about their pregnancy massage treatments and package deals, visit Moms in Tow Members get 20% off all single pregnancy treatments!


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