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Massage During Labor

Massage during labor can be effective — especially if the person giving the massage is in tune with the mother’s body and can pick up on cues. Massage can aid in relaxation and reduce pain, and, of course, it can also just feel really good.

Benefits of massage 

There are many potential benefits of massage, before, during and after pregnancy. Some of those benefits are:

  • reduced pain in the muscles and joints (especially the back, which can often get sore during pregnancy)
  • improved circulation and blood oxygenation, which can be helpful for your baby
  • reduced swelling
  • reduced muscle tension
  • reduced anxiety and stress

Despite the many benefits of massage, there are times during pregnancy when you shouldn’t have massage therapy. Talk with your health care provider before starting massage therapy.

Types of massage

You could consider hiring a professional massage therapist who specializes in prenatal massage to be with you in the hospital while you’re in labor, or you could teach your partner (or yourself) massage techniques. Work with your partner during the weeks (or months) before your baby is due to practice massaging your feet and toes, legs, buttocks, back, arms, hands and fingers, face, neck and head. Try out different speeds and pressures, from slow, light touch massage to deep, kneading strokes to tapping. You will probably like different types of massage on your face, head, hands and toes than you will on your back and shoulders. And what you enjoy during pregnancy may not work for you during labor when your senses are heightened. Practicing before labor will help you and your partner get in tune with one another.

You may want to consider learning about acupressure, which is a type of massage based on acupuncture techniques that can help reduce pain during labor.

Effleurage is a type of self-massage that focuses on your abdomen. The idea is to help interrupt the pain response so you won’t feel as much pain as you would otherwise. During effleurage, you use circular, rhythmic stroking movements with the palm of your hand to lightly massage your abdomen. Focusing on the rhythm and movement will help your brain “forget” the pain response, which can reduce your pain, and the massage itself can help you relax.

Remember that your response to being touched may change dramatically when you’re in labor, so if you enjoy massage normally, you may not want to be touched at all during labor, or vice versa. It’s important to communicate what’s working for you during labor.

Is massage safe during labor?

Most types of massage are safe during labor, but there are exceptions. If you have questions about whether massage is safe during labor and how you can incorporate it into your natural childbirth plan, talk with your health care provider.