Prenatal Massage & The Three Trimesters

Prenatal massage is something every pregnant woman should have the opportunity to enjoy. It offers safe and incredible benefits to anyone structurally, muscularly, and emotionally stressed due to pregnancy. Some of those benefits include relief from nausea, decreased muscle aches and pains, increased circulation, physical and emotional relaxation, and help with edema.


The work performed in each trimester may vary based on each person’s comfort level and needs. Some differences between the different stages include:

First trimester (0-13 weeks): Normal supine and prone positioning is safe; as a precaution, stomach massages aren’t recommended and with less pressure used on the lumbar and sacral area.

Second trimester (14-26 weeks): When lying flat on the stomach is no longer comfortable due to the growing uterus, a modified supine and side-lying position can be implemented for comfort using bolsters and pillows. Light abdominal massage is now safe for the duration of the pregnancy, provided there are not multiple fetuses.

Third trimester (27-40 weeks): By the final trimester, side lying and modified supine positions are used exclusively.


The only reasons we suggest the modifications of avoiding the abdomen and lighten up on the low back are to err on the side of caution, and for peace of mind for all parties. There is no indication that a light abdominal massage, or even a deep colon sweep technique, during first trimester, would cause any complications. However, most miscarriages happen in the first trimester.


During the 2nd and 3rd trimester: Light effleurage can be safely performed on the abdomen, as well as full pressure on the lumbar/sacral areas.  No abdominal massage should be performed for multiple fetuses (twins, triplets, etc) at any stage, due to less stability in the uterus.  As we have stated previously, tapotement/percussion is not recommended during any stage of pregnancy in order that the overworked blood and fluid passageways are not stressed. During the third trimester, your client will have the maximum effect of all of the physiological conditions. Be diligent about observing and accommodating these changes.


-Kaitlin Gelbmann, LMT, AWC

Resource: The Institute of Somatic Therapy

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