In the third trimester, everything hurts. It hurts to stand, and hurts more to sit for a long time. My lower body did not get the memo that this baby has more growing to do, and my back is constantly threatening to quit. It is no longer a stretch-and-yawn lament of “I can use a massage” but a desperate cry of “I actually need a massage” (mostly when woken up at 3am by a well-aimed kick in the ribs by my passenger, and then using immense effort even to toss and turn).

Enter: the prenatal massage. It’s safe to book one any time after your first trimester, unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. Not all prenatal massages are created equal – some spas and clinics perform their prenatal services on one of those tables with a hole in the middle for the belly, the selling point being that you can lie face-down while receiving. I personally don’t like those as the belly hole is not adjustable, so the table is truly comfortable only for those of a certain height and build. Some massages are done using specialized cushions placed on top of regular tables that add a lot of height to the tables so the therapist do not have the best leverage. Some places don’t have any specialized tables or boosters, and simply uses regular pillows propped up strategically to create a prenatal service. In other words, always ask about the service while you book!

My preference has been what my massage therapist calls the “side-lying massage”. Suellen, one of the amazing prenatal therapists at Oasis Day Spa in Manhattan, performs the massage on a regular table outfitted with a gigantic, over-stuffed version of the Snoogle pillow. I lie down on my side wedged within the pillow while my belly, arms, and legs are fully supported, and Suellen is able to work on my back and legs for a glorious 60 minutes. Not only do I doze off during the service, I’m treated with a few nights of uninterrupted sleep, as well as better posture while sitting for hours at work. My swollen ankles and feet also return to normal after a massage – even when I’d been lucky in that I have not yet truly been afflicted with badly swollen extremities (knock on wood!), a massage after traveling, or even a high-sodium meal, has been immensely helpful.

…And then my belly grows by another 5 pounds. Time to book another massage.