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Is Prenatal Massage Safe and Beneficial for Pregnant Women?

Last Updated: Aug 21, 2023 | Prenatal / Pregnancy, Women's Health

A heavy belly, swollen feet, and a painful back. Pregnancy is like going through a rollercoaster of pain and excitement – you wish you get to enjoy this process without the discomfort. What if there is a solution to your pregnancy pain?

With the whole range of dietary and lifestyle restrictions during pregnancy, you may think that getting a massage of any kind is just another prohibited activity. But this is where you are mistaken. Getting a massage is one of the healthiest and safest ways to relieve your pain and strengthen your body for childbirth.

What does Prenatal Massage do? What kinds of massages are there? Who’s suitable for it? How does it help in your pregnancy and relieve back pain due to pregnancy?

Read on to find out more.

prenatal massage

What is Prenatal Massage?

Prenatal massage is a therapeutic treatment dedicated to alleviating common symptoms of pregnancy like back pain, muscle aches, swollen joints and more.

Prenatal massage focuses on the muscles, joints, and bones. The most typical form of massage for pregnancy is Swedish massage, which is a gentle form of treatment that involves rubbing and kneading the muscles. This can promote blood flow and lymphatic drainage, which alleviates muscle pain and aches and reduce swelling respectively. In addition, the massage can regulate hormones, reducing anxiety and improving your overall mood.

What makes prenatal massage different from your typical massage is that less pressure is applied to avoid induced labour and other harm to the foetus. During the session, cushions or towels will be provided to provide additional support for your belly.  

With that said, there are different forms of massage across different cultures that each has its own benefits. One of the oldest forms is Prenatal Tuina.

What is Prenatal Tuina?

Tuina is a traditional form of Chinese massage technique that involves applying pressure on specific acupoints in our bodies to rebalance our Qi flow. During pregnancy, the huge demand in Qi to nourish the baby results in Qi and blood deficiency in major organs such as the liver, kidney, and spleen. This causes common pregnancy symptoms such as swollen feet, back pain, mood swings, morning sickness and more.

Hence, to regulate the Qi flow, therapists will usually combine pushing (推), holding (拿), kneading (揉), pressing (按) and other techniques on specific acupoints from your shoulders down to your legs. This helps in removing any Qi blockages and water retention from the body, alleviating back and leg cramps. In addition, this process stimulates the release of stress-relieving hormones, improving your mood and giving you a good night’s sleep. For prenatal tuina specifically, special consideration will be given to your lying position as well as the pressure exerted on your body to prevent any harm to your foetus.

Which is better: Prenatal Massage or Prenatal Tuina?

Western prenatal massage typically targets the musculoskeletal system to promote relaxation. In contrast, prenatal tuina goes beyond therapeutic effect to provide a medical edge as well. It can resolve the root cause of your pregnancy symptoms by going on a deeper level to restore your body’s energy (Qi) harmony rather than just loosening the muscles. This can resolve your pregnancy symptoms for good instead of just alleviating your pain temporarily. The biggest advantage of prenatal tuina would be the natural way of stimulating pain-relieving nerves, reducing your dependency on certain painkillers that could increase pregnancy risks like miscarriage and birth defects.

While both prenatal massage and tuina involves various techniques like kneading, pressing, stretching and more, tuina targets the specific acupoints on the body while normal massage focuses on the big muscle groups. Tuina can also come herb prescription to complement your treatment.

Prenatal Tuina will prove beneficial throughout your pregnancy journey and even up to your childbirth. With the strengthening of your pelvic muscles throughout the tuina session, your body would be more prepared for a smoother and less painful labour – the perfect ending to your 9-month journey.

Is it safe for pregnant women to go for Prenatal Tuina?

It is generally safe for expecting women to go for a Prenatal Tuina as it is specifically designed to cater to your pregnancy needs and minimise any risks to your foetus.

Many women may be hesitant to go for prenatal tuina because of the pre-existing notion that applying pressure on your belly is bad for the baby. As pregnant women are susceptible to blood clots, deep pressure increases the risk of dislodging them, which can become dangerous. However, during the prenatal tuina session, therapists will only apply light pressure on your body, which is just enough to stimulate Qi flow without causing other physiological damage. Furthermore, they are well-trained to identify any blood clots and other high-risk acupoints, so you don’t have to worry about causing any harm to your foetus.

In fact, to minimise any unwanted stress on your body, you will mostly be lying on your side. This is to avoid any unnecessary pressure on your stomach and back, which could potentially restrict blood flow to your uterus, cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the foetus. Extra cushioning pillows and bolsters are usually provided to relieve the pressure off your hips so that you can fully enjoy the experience of tuina.  

For those who are worried that tuina may lead to miscarriage, do not be. There has not been any causal link found between tuina and an increased risk of miscarriage. The loss of a pregnancy can be due to genetics, lifestyle habits, and other underlying health conditions – all of which are unaffected by tuina. In fact, tuina helps to strengthen your pelvic muscles, increasing the likelihood of a smooth pregnancy. Stimulation of acupoints releases more immune cells, which not only strengthen your baby’s immune system but also enable your body to recover faster after childbirth.

Overall, prenatal tuina is a safe option that essentially kills two birds with one stone: eases your pregnancy pain while strengthening your body for childbirth.

Who should avoid Prenatal Tuina?

It is recommended for women to go for prenatal tuina from their second trimester onwards as their body would be more adjusted as compared to their first trimester. While there is a greater risk of miscarriage during the first trimester, most cases are due to genetic abnormalities or traumatic injury that causes the foetus to separate from the uterine wall. Prenatal tuina will not lead to either of the 2 factors: it avoids deep or direct pressure that could cause a traumatic injury. Nonetheless, there is a concern that the sudden increase in blood flow during tuina could increase the risk of miscarriage, thus it is still important to seek approval from your doctor first before going for a tuina session.

As tuina involves stimulating blood circulation, women with high blood pressure, heart disease, gestational diabetes, placenta issues like deep vein thrombosis, or any other health issues should consult their doctor or gynaecologist first before booking an appointment. If approved, additional consultations with the TCM physician will ensure that the prenatal tuina will be customised to your needs.

What should you do before going for Prenatal Tuina?

As a quick summary, here are a few things you should look out for before and during your prenatal tuina:

  1. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or severe skin conditions like skin infections or eczema, it is best not to go for prenatal tuina. You may like to seek the advice of your doctor first. 
  1. Choose a trained medical professional or therapist. While doing some light massage at home is fine, a professional therapist has the expertise to assess your needs and apply the appropriate tuina strokes to maximise the benefits.

At Singapore Paincare TCM Wellness, our TCMB certified physicians and therapists trained under Singapore Paincare Academy are well-equipped and experienced to perform tuina massage in a safe manner for you.


  1. Before your appointment, hydrate and wear loose clothes so that you can ease into the session.

What can you expect from your first Prenatal Tuina?

If you tick all the boxes to experience prenatal tuina, here’s what to expect:

You will first have a personal consultation with the physician to understand your conditions and needs so that they can create a customised treatment plan.  

Following that, there will be a 45 to 60-minute treatment involving gentle strokes and pressure across the entire body like your legs, back, shoulder, and light abdominal work to regulate Qi flow and release any muscle tension. Massage pillows or bolsters might be provided for a more comfortable experience.

Expect to feel a sense of peace and relaxation that will last for days. Go for this treatment once a fortnight and you can say goodbye to your back pain, headaches, swollen feet, morning nausea and other symptoms for the rest of your 9-month journey.

Ease Your Pregnancy Pain Today

Singapore Paincare TCM Wellness integrates an east-west approach to our treatments for better outcomes. Our physicians and therapists undergo training in Singapore Paincare Academy (administered by Singapore Paincare Medical Group) to gain a better understanding of clinical conditions so that together with their TCM expertise, they can help patients get better.

If you are keen to relieve your pregnancy pain and prepare yourself for childbirth, book an appointment with us today!

TCM Singapore