In the Know: Lisa Gwilliam, Neal's Yard Remedies

What do I need to keep in mind when giving pre and postnatal massages?

Avoid massage in the first trimester unless their doctor or midwife has recommended it. Gentle massage throughout pregnancy is generally considered safe if you are in good health, but as 85% of miscarriages happen in the first trimester, massage is generally avoided to protect your practice
Give extra support to the body: use cushions, bolsters and bed adjustments to keep your client comfortable and supported. When the client is lying on their side, have them hugging a large pillow, with their legs bent and the top leg on a bolster.

When they are lying face up, always have their back in a semi upright position and a bolster under their knees - to relax the abdomen and flatten the lower back. Avoid having them lie flat and on the stomach, also keep a pillow under the head at all times and double-check that all positions are comfortable

Avoid the ankle/wrist area and pressure points on lower sacrum. The ankle and wrist area correspond to the uterus in reflexology and these areas are often massaged in order to bring on labour so are therefore avoided during pregnancy. Pressure points on the lower sacrum are also very delicate during pregnancy and it can therefore be uncomfortable for the client if you come into contact with them. 

Avoid tapotement and stimulating massage techniques: when you are pregnant you have heightened circulation and can sometimes be more sensitive so it’s best to avoid these invigorating techniques. 

Always check to see if they would like their stomach massaged. The stomach is an area that your pregnant clients might feel very protective about and potentially not want massaged, so always double check that. 

If they are happy to have it done, the massage should be carried out with light, stroking movements. Check this when giving postnatal treatments too, in case there are caesarean scars.

Avoid essential oils unless you are using a blend that specifically states it is safe for pregnancy or you are a trained aromatherapist. This is because there are contraindications with some essential oils and blends during pregnancy.

It is also worth bearing in mind that sense of smell is heightened during pregnancy, so clients may want to avoid essential oils for this reason as well. Clients having postnatal massages might also want to stay away from essentials if they are breastfeeding, as they can transfer into the breast milk

Lisa Gwilliam is a trained therapist and aromatherapist. Her career choice and her interest in health and wellbeing was inspired by her upbringing, as her family has always used natural remedies. She is passionate about using pure aromatherapy oils and ingredients to create products.