What is Labor Massage?
Most women feel great anxiety about childbirth and worry how they will cope with the challenges of labor. Massage therapy is one of the most wonderful tools to use during labor with numerous physical and emotional benefits. Research has shown that massage techniques and strategies can relieve stress during labor, relax muscles and promote overall calm for the mother.
Women who receive regular massages throughout their pregnancy are also often more relaxed and experience less muscle and joint pain, thus preparing them for labor and childbirth. Enlist the help of a birth partner, a certified midwife or doula to ease the strain of labor.
Benefits of Massage
Massage during labor has enormous benefits and these include:
- Reduces the laboring mother’s perception of pain, thus acting as a natural pain-reliever
- Alleviates tension and anxiety
- Aid in the production of endorphins or "feel-good hormones"
- Stimulates contractions
- Improves the flexibility of muscles
- Facilitates blood flow, circulation and fluid drainage
- Promotes less muscle tension
- Decreases stress levels and fatigue – helping to revitalize the mind and body
- Laboring mother feels a greater sense of emotional support
How to Massage During Labor
Certain basic guidelines need to be followed when massaging a woman in labor:
The need for massage differs from woman to woman during the various stages of labor. Women in labor generally do not want to be touched after contractions have begun. Touching a laboring woman can be quite disruptive to her and actually cause her to experience more pain. Your birthing partner should wait until the contraction is over and then ask you when you would most need a massage. The areas of the body that are likely to be massaged during labor include the back, buttocks, inner thighs, legs, stomach and hands. Keep in mind that not all women want to be touched during labor; some women may only appreciate having their hand, feet or head held.
The birthing woman should change massage positions until she finds one that is comfortable for her.
Help for Labor Massage
Massage and touch therapy have proven to be especially useful during pregnancy, labor and after birth (postpartum). During labor, massage techniques eases pain and anxiety, offers soothing assistance and reassurance and reduces complications. Essential therapeutic aromatherapy oils of Clary Sage, Lavender and Jasmine acts as a natural pain reliever, stimulates stronger, more regular contractions, and increases overall well-being.
Tips for an expectant mother
Here are some tips for an expectant mother:
- Try lying on your side with your top leg bent at your knee and leaning forward onto a cushion. When you are having contractions, you may often change your mind about what you exactly want at that particular moment – this could mean shifting positions, you may want a back rub one minute, then not want to be touched the next and a few contractions later you may be demanding to have your legs and feet massaged.
Tip for a birth partner: Birth partners should be patient and support expectant mothers continuously. At this stage of labor, it is probably best not to expect them to be polite or gracious especially when the contractions are coming hard and fast.
- Your birthing partner should keep his or her hands warm and relaxed. Many women may enjoy being stroked during early and active labor – guide your partner to let them know where you want to be massaged. In the transition stage of labor, gentle but firm strokes with a bit of added pressure may be needed. Experiment with pressure using firm, smooth strokes across her belly, back, hands, leg and feet. Various types of massage can be used during labor and these include effleurage, kneading, pressure or stroking massage. Birth partners should practice their massage techniques before hand on the pregnant mom so that they have an idea of what she enjoys.
- Apply a good quality massage lotion or oil to the area of the body that is being massaged. Choose a massage lotion or oil that appeals to the new mum’s senses – something that is fragrant and will help her to remain calm and connected with her body and baby.
More Information on Labor Massage
Tips to help you cope and ease the pain during labor
There are several different ways to alleviate the pain and discomfort during labor and these include:
- Attend childbirth classes with your partner that uses the Lamaze or Bradley techniques to help you deal with labor pains
- Organize a birth plan in which you can outline and document your preferences for labor and birth
- Select a midwife, doula or birth attendant that you are comfortable with, and will provide you with the help and support you need during your pregnancy and delivery
- Educate yourself throughout your pregnancy by speaking to mothers of children, reading books or attending workshops on pregnancy, childbirth and parenting
- Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, visualization, meditation and imagery when you are experiencing contractions
- Take a bath or shower to relieve labor pains and muscle tension
- Use a physiotherapy or birthing ball to help you move around during labor
- Play soothing music to relax and comfort you while in labor
- Change birthing positions until you are comfortable
- Surround yourself with positive people and a supportive environment during your pregnancy as both these factors have been shown to promote birth