Pregnant women risk serious complications and even miscarriage if they have massages from anyone who is not specially trained.

The greatest risk is during the first trimester and, contrary to popular thinking, how a woman is positioned for a massage is not the issue, according to Annie Henson, a nationally certified massage instructor who was in Salt Lake City last week to train massage therapists, doulas and other birth professionals about both the benefits and dangers of massage during pregnancy. She was brought in by Dynamic Touch Healing Arts Center.

During pregnancy, there are massive physiological changes occurring. And a good, deep massage also sparks change, which can be a very bad combination, Henson said.

For example, a deep shoulder massage, going after knots caused by stress and body changes, may feel good. But it can trigger miscarriage or the need for bed rest by a woman who is pregnant, Henson said. A good massage triggers a change in heart rate and hormones, which can be dangerous in pregnancy, "although you want relaxation to happen."

In fact, she said, studies show women who have had a couple of massages at eight or nine months have an easier time in labor and the duration is decreased by as much as 40 to 50 percent. But the massage must be done by someone who is specially trained to deal with pregnant women.

Massage therapists came from as far away as Colorado for the special training.

"People asked why we were training the competition," said Elizabeth Williams, co-founder of Dynamic Touch. "The truth is, a lot of people don't know you have to have special training for pregnancy massage. And there are so many pregnant women — thousands — along the Wasatch Front. They need to be safe."

Dynamic Touch is keeping a referral list of massage therapists who are trained for pregnancy massage. More information about pregnancy massages is available on Henson's Web site,