Prenatal Massage: A Textbook of Pregnancy, Labor, and Postpartum Bodywork
by Elaine Stillerman

[2008, St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby, 461 pages, softcover]

[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 84, Winter 2007, © 2007, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Benjamin Barbier, LMT.]

What factors determine whether it is safe to massage a pregnant client? How does the specific trimester affect the massage approach? Elaine Stillerman demystifies the art of pregnancy massage with the comprehensive reference Prenatal Massage. This work begins with an enlightening foreword by Penny Simkin, the prodigious educator and author in the field of birth, who reminds us that touching an expectant mother and unborn child is a privilege. The author, as an expert instructor on the subject, dispels older, pervasive pregnancy myths that remain in the massage world. She emphasizes the reasoning behind specific indication and contraindication decisions and describes short simple tests to help bodyworkers determine whether a massage should or should not be performed.

Chapter topics include physiology, the benefits of massage, labor preparation and support, positioning and specific massage techniques for common discomforts. These chapters are rich, with over 350 photos and illustrations outlining client positioning, body mechanics, acupressure points and relevant anatomy. Information on essential oils, herbs and needed supplies is also covered. Individual trimesters are detailed with specific approaches and techniques. Although the text is very informative, it does not lose sight of the emotional and psychological impact of pregnancy on a woman. Many issues such as depression, cultural concerns, and high-risk pregnancy will also enlighten the reader.

At the end of each chapter, the author presents relevant and candid recollections in a section titled “In My Experience…” As a special treat, the final chapter focuses on marketing prenatal bodywork services. The included review questions and glossary ensure that the reader absorbs key points. An added value is a 45-minute DVD that demonstrates some of the massage techniques and contraindication tests that are highlighted in the text.

I found this an engaging, captivating and extremely detailed resource. This work is an authoritative volume that remains accessible to readers. Both experienced pregnancy massage therapists and students would be well advised to pick up a copy.

Reviewer Benjamin Barbier, LMT, is a massage therapist who has worked in Oregon and Texas. He is a former spa director and massage instructor.

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