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Massage during labor: the power of touch

  • Studies have shown that massage therapy performed during labor can significantly reduce pain.
  • Massage therapy during labor can provide comfort and help the mother to relax.

There’s a reason it’s called labor. It’s hard work. But the ancient art of massage can help make your labor easier.

Studies have shown that massage therapy performed during labor can help:

  • significantly reduce pain, especially back, leg and joint pain
  • relieve muscle aches
  • reduce anxiety, depression and stress
  • help with nausea
  • improve circulation and oxygen levels in the blood
  • reduce swelling
  • reduce muscle tension and improve flexibility
  • reduce need for pain medication
  • reduce epidurals and Cesarean sections

Other studies have found that women who had massage therapy during their pregnancy and their delivery had shorter labors, by about 3 hours on average. Additional findings are reduced rate of premature delivery and reduced risk of postpartum depression.

Integrative therapies for labor

Most birth centers now offer massage therapy, as well as other integrative therapies like acupressure and aromatherapy, for their delivering moms. A trained therapist works with each woman, as well as their birth partner, to identify the best type of massage for their situation. For instance, a woman experiencing low back pain may need massage to the back and hips. Someone who is anxious may need a foot massage. The goal is to provide comfort and help the mother to relax. The therapist also may help your birth partner relax by giving him or her something to do to help you, and you may be more comfortable having your birth partner’s touch during your labor.

More complex pregnancies

Massage can also help in those situations where the pregnancy is not picture perfect. Stress and anxiety levels often soar when a woman has been put on bed rest to stop premature delivery or when she’s gone past her due date. Massage therapy can help moms’ cope with the unknown.

Your birth plan

If you’re interested in incorporating complementary therapies, like massage, into your labor experience, it’s best to talk with your doctor or midwife ahead of time as they may suggest some options for you. Then, be sure to include your preferences in your birth plan. If you request massage therapy, a therapist will meet you at the hospital and talk with you about your needs and desires. The therapist will remain in contact throughout your hospital stay, helping you throughout your delivery.

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