Be not afraid (of pregnant massage clients)

Just under 4 million babies were born in the United States in 2011.

That’s nearly 4 million pregnant women with any number of pregnancy woes like sciatica, swelling, and the inability to get cozy in any particular position. Pregnancy massage is a growing and rewarding field, and massage therapists with advanced training will have the advantage with this niche.

So where does one get such training? We suggest going to the woman who  pioneered the field of prenatal massage in the 1970's, Elaine Stillerman.  Elaine has trained thousands of massage therapists in her MotherMassage® technique, and she does it with a style all her own.

Elaine Stillerman copyElaine is engaging, funny, and no nonsense. Sign up for the March 2013 Tools for Touch™ (TFT) webinar to see her present a live demonstration on one of her very pregnant clients. Elaine’s TFT web seminar also covers precautions and contraindications for working with a prenatal client, proper positioning and how to safely (and comfortably) help a woman on and off the massage table. Her hands-on video demo focuses on the back and the pelvis, and it includes proper body mechanics for you, the massage therapist, so you can do this work for many years to come.

We can guarantee you won’t be bored for a minute. Her passion for working with women during pregnancy is evident in everything she teaches, her passion for the Yankees may well pop up, too. Just in case you’re still not convinced, we visited Elaine in Brooklyn recently and recorded this live video interview with her. Read excerpts from our visit with her below:

Q: Elaine, were there many therapists doing prenatal massage back in the 1970s?

I got my NY State massage license in 1978 at a time where the massage classes themselves were segregated between men and women, and the word pregnancy was never uttered.  Side-lying position was never demonstrated, but what was interesting was what was on the state board – there was a question about the efficacy of massaging the lower back and abdomen of a pregnant woman during pregnancy. If you wanted to get the question right, you said you should not do it! And that made no sense to me, I mean I got the question right, but it made no sense to me.

Q: So what happened if one of your massage clients got pregnant?

Well, in 1980 one of my clients did become pregnant. And still, the consensus of opinion at that time was when a woman became pregnant, she stopped her massages, she had her baby and she came back again later.

Lucky for me, this client did not want to stop her massages – and I had no advisor to go to – but nobody was doing prenatal massage.  I did what I thought was right, I put her in a side positioning and carried on. And I realized, I better do some research so I started by looking at sociological and anthropological textbooks and learned that prenatal massage has accompanied traditional care throughout societies since the beginning of the written word!

Elaine Stillerman demonstrating MotherMassageThe very honorable tradition of midwifery also included massage in late pregnancy, during labor of course and post-partum recovery. So what I’m teaching is nothing new, it’s just a specific adaptation for the anatomy and physiology of pregnancy.

Q: Hah – so you took it upon yourself to pioneer prenatal massage?

In the early 1980's I became known as the rogue massage therapist who was not afraid of pregnant clients . . . and I started getting a lot more business. I took it upon myself to do a lot more research. My first study was Shiatsu so I looked at the traditional Chinese medical texts and realized that they always supported pregnancy from each trimester with acupuncture and then I started reading nursing textbooks, midwifery textbooks, obstetric textbooks. Incredible changes are going on in a woman’s body when she is pregnant and we have to adapt our massage technique to that.

Q: Tell us about your MotherMassage® technique?

MotherMassage® is not a specific technique, although I do offer a strong foundation – it’s an amalgam of many massage techniques that you yourself already know or are going to study, but they’re designed to be appropriate, in other words, they honor the dynamic changes in physiology that go on in pregnancy. So a lot of you out there might be coming from different venues, from different studies, and you can apply your techniques to your prenatal practice provided that it is safe and appropriate for a pregnant woman.

Q: What do you  present in your Tools for Touch™ seminar?

We review a PowerPoint presentation that describes the anatomy and physiology of the musculoskeletal system, and the changes that occur during pregnancy – because if you don’t understand what’s physiologically going on in her body, you won’t know how to treat her. Then we do a live demonstration of some techniques that you might already know – muscle energy techniques, strain-counterstrain to the lower back, to the pelvis.

We also isolate particular muscle sections and see how we can release the tensions that occur there during pregnancy, particularly late pregnancy. I also  demonstrate some techniques using T-spheres, or tranquility spheres, which are aromatherapy massage balls. I have a motto, “Work smart, not hard.” and these are incredible hand-saving tools.

The MotherMassage® technique is geared to the entire body, but for time’s sake and for the fact that the lower back is the area where there is the greatest discomfort, I  specify techniques that address those particular discomforts.

I hope this webinar will pique your interest and whet your appetite for prenatal massage – this is a very deserving population! Not only are you making them feel better, you are an intimate part of this very, very private process. MotherMassage is about honoring the dynamic changes that go on in her body physically, anatomically – we address those issues with specific, appropriate, safe, effective techniques.


Elaine is a powerhouse in the field of prenatal massage and an endless source of knowledge on the topic. We’re thrilled to be bringing her to you for this Tools for Touch™ webinar!