If you've ever had a massage, you'll know that it can leave you feeling relaxed, destressed and altogether calmer - and it's just as beneficial during pregnancy What can massage do for me?

The Touch Research Institute in Miami has found that expectant women who are massaged throughout pregnancy have better sleep, reduced anxiety and stress, less back pain and fewer labour complications.

It can also help relieve some of those common pregnancy ailments, such as oedema (swelling), poor digestion, fatigue, high blood pressure, stress on weight-bearing joints. And setting aside even half an hour for a massage can give you some invaluable time to focus on yourself and your growing baby. What parts of the body will be covered?
“Pregnancy massage can tend to be lighter but this doesn't have to be the case,” says Lisa Barnwell, director of Me & My Baby Therapy Rooms in London. “A good pregnancy massage should cover most of the body - hands and arms (often swollen and puffy), neck, shoulders (tight knots are common and are something I always tackle), lower back, feet, legs and hips. Massage to the belly is generally not wanted, but is good for a mother-to-be to do herself.”

What oils can be used?

It is wise to exercise caution when using essential oils during pregnancy, but rest assured that many may be used safely. Lisa Barnwell says, “Aromatherapy in pregnancy can be really beneficial. In the first trimester essential oils are used very sparingly but lemon, grapefruit, ginger and lavender can be helpful for morning sickness and anxiety. Second trimester the choice widens - neroli, most citrus (mandarin's a common favourite), frankincense. For the third trimester it's more of the same, but in the last 2-3 weeks we use more 'preparing', 'pre-birth' oils, including clary sage, rose and jasmine.” It's always advisable to see your nearest pregnancy masseur or aromatherapist for the best oils for your particular needs. To know more, go to the article all about . How do I find a therapist?
It's vital to find someone experienced in pre-natal massage, as they will be aware of which oils are safe, which strokes are best to use and of the correct position to put you in. There is no one body that therapists can register with, but the best advice is to check that your masseur is registered with a professional body, and to ask for recommendations, either from your midwife or doctor, or from friends.
Expectancy (www.expectancy.co.uk) is an organisation that promotes the use of alternative therapies in pregnancy and also runs courses for midwives and other health professionals; they hold a register of Expectancy-trained therapists. The number of treatments is constantly growing, so you should find something near you.

I can't possibly lie on my tummy! What position can I be massaged in?

Some massage tables have a special cut-out hole to accommodate your bump, such as those at Oeuf Therapy Rooms (www.oeuf.org.uk), otherwise you will lie on your side with pillows to keep you comfortable. There's no-one nearby who can massage me. Can I do it myself?
Absolutely, although you won't be able to give yourself a full body massage. Rubbing oils into your belly is a great way to bond with your unborn baby, not to mention a great way to keep the skin supple and well moisturised.
If you're suffering from morning sickness finding the Pericardium 6 acupressure point on the wrist - three finger-widths from the wrist crease - is a useful place to start. It has been proven to help with nausea and anxiety and can be used pre-labour for preparation and induction. It helps calm the mind and can help the mind/uterus connection.
To relieve tired legs, lie on your side or stand, using a wall for support. Use long strokes from the ankle to the top of the thigh - be firm on the way up, gentler on the way down.

Can I get my partner to join in?
Yes! This is a great way for him to bond with your unborn child and to offer you some practical yet gentle support. Me & My Baby Therapy Rooms (www.meandmybabyclinic.co.uk) offers couples massage classes, teaching basic techniques. The most common areas of strain are the shoulders and lower back, so get him to give those a little TLC.