Is a Chair Massage Okay During Pregnancy?

Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Pregnant woman getting a chair massage

Pregnancy can wreak havoc on a woman's body, causing many pregnant women to suffer from a wide variety of aches and pains. Back pain caused by the growing uterus is one of the most common pregnancy complaints, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Some pregnant women try to relieve lumbar and posterior pelvic pain, the two main types of back pain, with chair massages.

Pregnancy Chair Massage Overview

In a chair massage, the pregnant client sits in an ergonomically-designed chair that features a padded face rest and padded chest rest. The pregnant woman leans forward to receive the massage from a seated, yet supported position.

Why It's Popular with Pregnant Women

While there are specific prenatal massages, they require specially-designed tables and cushion systems that are built to support a pregnant client who is lying down. Many massage therapists do not have this equipment and, even when they do, some pregnant women find the tables uncomfortable or are simply unable to climb up on them.

  • Chair massages are ideal for self-conscious pregnant women who don't want to lay on a table and who want to remain dressed.
  • This type of massage is typically oil or lotion-free, so it may also be a good option for clients who have an oversensitive sense of smell due to the pregnancy hormones.
  • Chair massages usually only last around 30 minutes and are more time and cost-efficient than other types of prenatal massages.

Massage Trimesters

Like other prenatal massages, many massage therapists will not give a chair massage during the first trimester, or first three months, of the pregnancy. This is due to a slightly higher risk of miscarriage in the first trimester than the second and third trimesters.

Health Benefits

According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnancy massages given by certified prenatal massage therapists can be a very effective treatment for back pain during pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association reports that prenatal massages can help to relieve muscle aches and joint pains, decrease symptoms of depression, and reduce anxiety.

Potential Risks of Pregnancy Chair Massages

Many of the risks of prenatal chair massages are the same as the risks associated with other types of pregnancy massages. However, one of the main risks for the lying-down prenatal massage is body position, which is not a factor in chair massage. Also, it is advised that massage therapists do not use deep-tissue massage strokes on a pregnant woman's legs, as it could cause blood clots. This is not a common issue in chair massages.

Other precautions and risks for any pregnancy massage include the following:

  • Non-certified prenatal massage therapists may not know how to address sensitive areas or how to work with specific pregnancy-related aches.
  • Some pressure points on the wrists and ankles can stimulate the pelvic muscles and may cause premature labor, so they should be avoided.
  • Women who have high-risk pregnancies, pregnancy-induced hypertension (preeclampsia), or have had a previous pre-term labor should get their doctor's approval before going for any type of prenatal massage.

Effective Pain Relief for Pregnancy and Beyond

Pregnancy chair massages can help relieve pain and make the long nine months a little more pleasant. Some women even hire their massage therapists to be on-hand during labor. However, you should always consult with your doctor or midwife before starting this type of alternative pain treatment.

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Is a Chair Massage Okay During Pregnancy?