Safety and Pregnancy Massage: a qualitative thematic analysis

  • Sarah Fogarty, PhD Western Sydney University
  • Rebecca Barnett, BA Association of Massage Therapists
  • Phillipa Hay, PhD Western Sydney University
Keywords: safety, massage, pregnancy


Background: Traditionally, safety and improving safety in the treatment of pregnant women has involved identifying risks that lead to errors or adverse events, and implementing strategies to mitigate potential harm. There is research that suggests that other factors such as a lack of service, lack of care or a lack of quality also contribute to participants feeling unsafe. Currently there is no evidence-based research on the psychological aspects of the safety of massage during pregnancy.

Purpose: The present study aim was to investigate women’s perceptions and experiences of the safety of massage during pregnancy. This included exploring what attributes of the clinician or practice and events that occur during the massage helped pregnant women feel safe.

Setting: Phone interview with participants from Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Participants: 20 women who received massage whilst pregnant.

Research Design: Qualitative design using thematic analysis.

Results: There were five main themes related to safety and massage: 1) Autonomy— able to voice my needs and be heard; 2) Pregnancy massage is more than just a massage; 3) When my therapist is experienced
and qualified, I feel safer; 4) The continuity of the massage industry’s message about the safety of massage; and 5) Decision-making around massage safety.

Conclusions: Safety is made up of not only the treatment that massage therapists provide, but also the environment they provide it in and how they administer both the treatment and the consultation. The lack of cohesion in messaging about the safety of massage during pregnancy makes women doubt the safety of massage.

Author Biographies

Sarah Fogarty, PhD, Western Sydney University

School of Medicine, PhD

Phillipa Hay, PhD, Western Sydney University

Professor, School of Medicine

How to Cite
Fogarty, PhD, S., Barnett, BA, R., & Hay, PhD, P. (2020). Safety and Pregnancy Massage: a qualitative thematic analysis. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: Research, Education, & Practice, 13(1), 4-12.