Whether from a professional, an S.O., or your little one, there’s no denying that a massage can feel oh-so-good for both the body and mind. This is especially true if you’re working with a heavy belly and sore back while riding the nine-month emotional rollercoaster that is pregnancy.
From swollen limbs that throb and sore hips that ache to plump toes, tender breasts, and tired joints, growing a tiny human is not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, for many moms-to-be, a gentle rubdown can soothe discomfort and promote relaxation — but are leg massages during pregnancy safe? We’ll tell you.
Read on to get the scoop on leg massages to discover if they are A-OK while pregnant or best to avoid. We will also go over a few tips and tricks to help you ease your pain naturally. Are you ready?
Let’s dive in!
First Off, What’s a Prenatal Massage?
Simply put, “prenatal massage” is a catch-all term for any kind of hands-on massage during pregnancy.
Like a regular massage, a prenatal massage aims to relax tense muscles, boost circulation, ease sore spots and improve mobility. But this type of massage is also customized to the needs of expectant mothers and their changing bodies.
During a session, a prenatal massage therapist may ask you to lie on your back or side (as opposed to your belly) to avoid compressing your uterus (aka womb). Different manual manipulation techniques can then help stimulate the lymphatic system, bones, muscles, joints, and tissue in various areas of the body to provide gentle relief that won’t harm the fetus.
Some of the other potential benefits of prenatal massage include:
- Alleviates tension
- Increases blood circulation
- Supports a healthy posture for better fetal positioning
- Stabilizes hormonal levels
- Relaxes the nervous system
- Improves sleep quality
- Boosts mood
- Reduces postoperative pain
If you’re thinking about getting a rubdown to soothe your pregnancy aches and pains, it’s important to keep in mind that not all massage therapists specialize in the art of prenatal massage.
To be safe, stick with a masseuse with an extensive background in working with pregnant women. While a prenatal massage can help you feel a little more like your old self (pre-baby bump), it does come with a few risks — especially when your legs are involved.
Is a Leg Massage Safe During Pregnancy?
When a leg massage is performed by a well-trained practitioner with specific training in pregnancy, then yes — a leg massage is generally regarded as safe during pregnancy.
Now, a leg massage provided by an individual without any prenatal experience, on the other hand, may not be safe. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons:
- Pressure points. In reflexology (aka zone therapy), you have certain parts of your legs and feet that are directly connected to different organs and glands — like the uterus and ovaries. While much more research is needed, some experts say that massaging these special areas, such as the sp6 acupressure point, may trigger early uterine contractions and cervical ripening, so they may be best avoided.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). During pregnancy, blood volume increases which can cause blood flow in the legs to slow down. This may make you prone to blood clots — a condition known as deep vein thrombosis. In this case, a leg massage can be life-threatening because any pressure on the veins could dislodge a clot, ultimately helping it to enter the circulatory system, where it can cause other various and often serious complications.
A certified therapist with expertise in prenatal massage understands that the legs can be a delicate area for a pregnant woman — hence why it’s of the utmost importance to do your due diligence before making an appointment with just anyone. If needed, talk to your OB GYN or midwife for recommendations when looking for a masseuse to ensure safety.
What Causes Leg Pain?
If you’re dealing with leg pain — you’re not alone. Many moms-to-be experience leg pain. Different from leg cramps, which many expecting mamas experience in the second trimester or third trimester, leg pain is a different animal. Leg pain can be fleeting, coming and going, and related to spending too much time on your feet. Sometimes, leg pain can be a sign of something else.
- Nerve compression
- Varicose veins
- Blood clot
A growing belly, and the extra weight and fluid retention it can bring, can sometimes compress your nerves. Sciatica is a condition that can cause shooting pains to extend from your bum or lower back, down your legs. The pain can become worse after extended periods of inactivity.
While common, especially in the third trimester, sciatica caused by pregnancy typically clears after birth. Gentle stretching and prenatal massage from an experienced massage therapist can help ease the discomfort of sciatica.
Varicose veins are larger, thick veins that can appear up and down your legs. The pressure of your growing baby causes these veins to bulge and swell. Varicose veins can ache. Staying active as your doctor allows, propping your feet up, sleeping on your left side, and wearing compression socks can help relieve discomfort caused by varicose veins. A visit to a massage therapist well versed in prenatal massage could also help temporarily soothe varicose vein discomfort.
When you have leg pain that just doesn’t quit, always speak with your doctor. Although uncommon, blood clots do happen. Chat with your doc to make sure you aren’t at risk.
What’s the Best Way To Combat Leg Pain While Pregnant?
Leg pain can be annoying at best and debilitating at worst. Unlike leg cramps, when many women turn to magnesium, calcium, or our Therapeutic Bath Salts, general leg pain can have a different approach (though we recommend sticking with the bath salts either way).
To soothe your leg pain, you may consider getting a professional massage, but as mentioned earlier, this remedy could come with a few risks. Speak with your healthcare provider and then take a look at these pregnancy-safe tips and tricks that may help you find temporary relief.
Tip #1: Wear Supportive Clothes
A pelvic girdle may not look the most stylish, but not only will it be hidden under your clothes, it could help support the weight of your growing baby. This handy maternity accessory helps distribute the weight of your baby in a more balanced way, potentially helping to take the pressure off your body. It can even help support your posture, which could help soothe your leg discomfort.
Compression socks, on the other hand, could offer your legs a little calming relief, especially if you are suffering from the pain of varicose veins. Do avoid tight, uncomfortable clothes during your pregnancy and opt for garments that are loose and breathable. Your sore legs could thank you.
Tip #2: Stretch
Upon waking up or right before it’s time to hit the hay, try doing a few pregnancy-safe stretching exercises to keep your muscles and joints strong, flexible, and loose. Prenatal yoga is also a great way to stay nimble and to help temporarily soothe the discomfort of sciatica.. Just be sure to drink plenty of water to steer clear of dehydration.
Speaking of which…
Tip #3: Exercise
Pregnancy isn’t the time to run a marathon, but a bit of light exercise can help. Think: stationary bike, brisk walks through your neighborhood and local park, and swimming are a few of the exercises typically deemed “safe” for pregnant women. Swimming can feel especially great, since the water naturally helps support a pregnant belly, while potentially reducing the pressure on muscles and joints.
Still, you should always speak with your doctor to double-check your exercise plans.
Tip #4: Take Magnesium
At the end of the day, you could finish the night on a more positive note with our Minty Foot and Leg RubOrganic Sleepy Lotion. Masterfully made with just a few clean ingredients, including organic magnesium, this pregnancy-safe non-greasy formula is nutrient-packed to help calm restless legs, ease cramps, and soothe all of your other achy-breaky parts. What’s not to love?
Pregnancy can take a toll on a woman's body, especially the legs, from plump achy toes and painful swollen ankles to sore knees, hips, and thighs. Fortunately, there are a number of things that can help ease leg pain, such as a warm bath, an icepack, and our Minty Foot and Leg Rub8 Sheep Organic Magnesium Lotion.
A gentle prenatal massage may also soothe leg pain. Still, it’s of utmost importance to seek a professionally-trained massage therapist who knows the proper techniques and pressure to apply to a pregnant mother. Why?
Because certain spots on the feet and legs are directly connected to the female reproductive system and the effects of massage in these special areas may encourage contractions. Additionally, pressure that’s too deep could dislodge a clot, resulting in even more pain and other various complications.
In short, if you’re looking to relieve leg cramps, skip the massage and try a gentle foot and leg rubmagnesium. For other pregnancy aches and pains, a certified prenatal masseuse might be your saving grace — but before you make an appointment to get a full-body rubdown, be sure to run it by your healthcare provider first!