Esalen massage is an ideal modality for prenatal massage
The gentle long strokes of Esalen massage are well-suited to the needs of prenatal massage clients.
The bodyCushion is an orthopedic positioning system that allows pregnant women up to full term to lie face down safely and comfortably. It can also position pregnant clients comfortably in side-lying position and prone (face up).
An electric table makes it easy to raise and lower the table so the client can get on and off the table safely.
Five myths of prenatal massage
(From Elaine Stillerman, Prenatal massage: A textbook of Pregnancy, Labor, and Postpartum Bodywork, 2008, p. 21)
Andy's comments on the five myths
Regarding the risk of miscarriage and whether massage is contraindicated in the first trimester:
The reality is that appropriate massage, particularly the gentle long strokes of Esalen massage, simply does not pose any risk to the health or well-being of pregnant women at any point of a pregnancy. On the contrary, it is beneficial for pregnant women to receive healing touch at this very important time.
Regarding whether the abdomen should be massaged during the first trimester:
I ask every pregnant client about abdominal massage. If requested to stay off the belly, I do. National massage franchises generally prohibit their massage therapists from touching the belly of a pregnant client. From the perspective of Esalen massage, staying off the belly unless requested by the client is odd and unhelpful. Why would the massage therapist ignore the pregnant belly, and just massage the rest of the body as if the pregnant belly weren't there?
Regarding staying off the hands and feet:
The rationale for avoiding the feet and hands of pregnant women comes from concerns that there are acupuncture points on the hands and feet that, if touched, can trigger labor. There is no medical evidence that any kind of touch on a pregnant woman's hands or feet can cause her to go into labor. I massage the hands and feet of pregnant clients as I usually would unless the client requests otherwise.
Regarding whether a pregnant woman should be massaged only while lying on her left side:
The rationale for massaging a pregnant woman lying on her left side is that if she lies supine or on her right side the fetus can compress the inferior vena cava and potentially harm the mother and starve the baby of oxygen. The evidence today suggests that, for the relatively brief duration of a massage, and if properly supported by bolsters such as the bodyCushion, pregnant women may receive massage face down, face up, or on either side with no risk to the mother or the fetus. Side-lying is of course an excellent way to position prenatal clients for massage; if a client is most comfortable in side-lying position I am happy to work that way.
How I got started in prenatal massage
Pregnancy is a fascinating chapter in a woman's life. I am grateful to stand by and witness the mystery and the miracle of new life.
I'm not married and have no children of my own; I never planned to get into prenatal massage. However, several pregnant clients appeared in my practice requesting prenatal massage. So I looked into prenatal massage education and researched body positioning systems. I found that Esalen massage, the bodyCushion, and the electric table together make a good service for pregnant massage clients.
I’m glad I said “yes” to my initial prenatal massage opportunities: It is satisfying to work with prenatal clients and the clients certainly need and appreciate the work.