Massage is a valuable coping strategy to enhance your wellbeing in pregnancy and labour. In general terms, massage can help:
- You feel more relaxed
- Alleviate lower back pain
- Relieve the build-up of tension in your muscles
- Release oxytocin and endorphins
- Help you conserve energy
It is also a great way to connect with your birth partner, particularly if you practice regularly during pregnancy. Ideally, a couple of times a week.
If your partner is giving you a massage, why not set it up as part of date night? Set up the room with low lighting or candles, relaxing music, some aromatherapy oils and a lovely massage oil.
What does the research say?
In 2018, researchers combined 10 randomised controlled trials into a Cochrane Review of the benefits of massage during labour. They found some evidence that massage in the first stage of labour was linked to lower pain scores. Other benefits of massage include:
- Lower levels of anxiety during labour
- Increased sense of control
- Increased maternal satisfaction
The numbers involved in these trials were relatively small, so the evidence is not very strong. However, there were no adverse side effects of using massage!
Using massage in all birth settings
Massage is a lovely coping strategy for all birth settings – even during assisted or caesarean birth. For example, if there are no complications and the pregnant person is leaning over a birth ball, you can easily massage their back and shoulders and use hip squeezes during a contraction.
However, if they are set up in theatre getting ready for a caesarean, most of these techniques won’t work. It doesn’t mean you can’t give a massage, but you need to adapt the type of massage you offer. For example, you may provide a head and shoulders or even a hand massage instead.
Learn some massage techniques for labour
In the video below (taken from our antenatal course), you’ll learn various massage techniques you can use during pregnancy and labour. Claire Nutt, a midwife and massage therapist, teaches Nick how to massage his pregnant wife as she leans over a birth ball.
Take some time to watch the video before returning to the start and practising each stroke Claire explains. The more you practice, the more natural it will feel. It also gives you the benefit of working out which strokes you prefer on which parts of your body.
Everyone is different. Do you like the light, effleurage strokes, or prefer the more intense hip squeezes? Do you like the kneading movements or pressure on your sacrum? There is no right or wrong answer! You may like them all. They are there to give you options – and recognise that different techniques may be helpful at different stages of labour.
One final thought – you may practise all these techniques and have some lovely pregnancy massages but not want them when you’re in labour. Don’t worry! The practice hasn’t gone to waste as we know that the more relaxed and connected to your birth partner you feel in pregnancy, the better you will work together during labour too.