Massage in labour

relaxingmassage, massage, backmassage, boddymassage, stressmassage, howtomassage, partnermassage

How does massage help relieve pain?

Massage stimulates your body to release endorphins, the natural pain-killing, mood-lifting chemicals produced in the brain. Endorphins are responsible for the high that you feel after exercise, or after a good bout of laughter.

In labour, massage brings you closer to the person who’s caring for you. This could be your

There are certain

Massage may

(NCCWCH 2014, Silva Gallo et al 2013, Smith et al 2012)

. It may help you to cope with your contractions by making them feel less intense and more manageable

(Sanders and Lamb 2014)

.

You can also watch our

Are massage oils safe during labour?

Using oil makes massage easier and more pleasant for you. However, be careful which oil you choose for labour.

Before buying or using an

Essential oils are powerful substances and can interfere with contractions if used incorrectly. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil or base oil.

Try diluting two drops of essential oil with a teaspoon (5ml) of base oil

(Mantle and Tiran 2009)

such as sweet almond and grapeseed. You may want to avoid sweet almond if you have a sensitivity to nuts

(Mantle and Tiran 2009)

.

Different oils suit different needs. For example, lavender is particularly well known for its relaxing properties, while ylang ylang tends to have a calming and sedating effect

(Mantle and Tiran 2009, Tiran 2011)

. Or you can just use a base oil on its own.

Which are the best areas to massage?


Shoulder massage

During labour, keep your shoulders relaxed, as this will help you to

Your

He could also try resting his hands on top of your shoulders and using his thumbs to massage in small, firm circles behind your shoulder blades. Tell him if he is pressing too hard or not hard enough, or if he is massaging too quickly. It’s important for him to avoid frantic massage, as this will probably speed up your breathing when the aim is to slow it down!


Back massage

Many women feel contractions strongly in their lower back, so

In

Make sure that he is massaging you using the whole of his hand and not just the heel. His fingers need to be in contact with your body as he tries to respond to the tensions he finds there.

In advanced labour, your

Watch our


Foot massage

Even if you don’t usually like having your feet touched, you may still enjoy a firm, rhythmic foot massage in labour. The massage does need to be firm, however, or it will be unbearably ticklish.

If you find yourself


Hand massage

If you’ve had an

Your birth partner can simply stroke each hand in turn, first on the back, then on the palm, sweeping firmly down from your wrist to your fingertips. He can make small circles all over your palm, and gently pull each finger in turn to release the tension. This is a lovely way of being close to each other and making your labour special.

What if I don’t want a massage?

If your birth partner is keen to massage you in labour, he may be disappointed if you don’t like it. However, some women simply cannot bear to be touched when they are having contractions. Contractions can be so strong that even the slightest touch may be more than you can cope with.

Other women find massage so helpful that they want their partners to keep smoothing their shoulders or pressing their lower backs for hours on end!

Your birth partner needs to be flexible and understand that massage techniques that bring great comfort in early labour may not help later on. In the later stages of labour, many women can’t bear to be touched and can even become quite aggressive towards their partner. Being able to listen, offer verbal encouragement, respond to your needs, and not take things personally, are key qualities of

Where can my birth partner learn how to massage me?

You and your birth partner can practise these massage techniques at home. Or you may both benefit from having a one-to-one with a massage therapist before you go into labour

(MIDIRS 2008: 11)

.

Some, but not all,

Alternatively, your midwife can support you and your partner, by using massage or demonstrating how to use massage techniques when you’re in labour

(RCM 2012)

.

Watch our video to learn more about

Last reviewed: April 2015

Next review: April 2018

References

Mantle F, Tiran D. 2009.

A-Z of complementary and alternative medicine: a guide for health professionals.

London: Churchill Livingstone

MIDIRS. 2008. Non-epidural pain relief strategies for labour.

MIDIRS Informed Choice – for professionals

14

NCCWCH. 2014.

Intrapartum care: care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth.

National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health, Clinical guideline, 190. www.nice.org.uk [Accessed December 2014]

RCM. 2012.

Supporting women in labour.

Royal College of Midwives, Evidence based guidelines for midwifery-led care in labour. London: RCM www.rcm.org.uk [Accessed October 2014]

Sanders R, Lamb K. 2014. An exploration of the benefits and drawbacks of Intrapartum pain management strategies.

Brit J Midwifery

22(9):642-9

Silva Gallo RB, Santana LS, Jorge-Ferreira CH, et al. 2013. Massage reduced severity of pain during labour: a randomised trial.

J Physiother

59(2):109-16Smith CA, Levett KM, Collins CT, et al. 2012. Massage, reflexology and other manual methods for pain management in labour.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

(2): CD009290. onlinelibrary.wiley.com [Accessed October 2014]

Tiran D. 2011. Smell’s good! Aromatherapy in midwifery.

Practising Midwife

14(10):11-15


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Massage stimulates your body to release endorphins, the natural pain-killing, mood-lifting chemicals produced in the brain. Endorphins are responsible for the high that you feel after exercise, or after a good bout of laughter.In labour, massage brings you closer to the person who’s caring for you. This could be your
midwife
or your
birth partner
. Touch can make you feel better while you’re coping with contractions and perhaps tired or frightened.There are certain
positions for labour
that help to make massage easier. For example, leaning forward on a birth ball or sitting on a chair turned back to front, will make it easier for your birth partner to put steady pressure on your lower back or rub your shoulders.Massage may
ease pain
and reduce anxiety in the first
stage of labour
. It may help you to cope with your contractions by making them feel less intense and more manageableYou can also watch our
video
on relaxation massage in labour.Using oil makes massage easier and more pleasant for you. However, be careful which oil you choose for labour.Before buying or using an
essential oil
, consult a properly accredited aromatherapist to make sure you choose oils that are safe for pregnancy and labour. There may also be a specially trained midwife in your area who can advise you.Essential oils are powerful substances and can interfere with contractions if used incorrectly. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil or base oil.Try diluting two drops of essential oil with a teaspoon (5ml) of base oilsuch as sweet almond and grapeseed. You may want to avoid sweet almond if you have a sensitivity to nutsDifferent oils suit different needs. For example, lavender is particularly well known for its relaxing properties, while ylang ylang tends to have a calming and sedating effect. Or you can just use a base oil on its own.During labour, keep your shoulders relaxed, as this will help you to
breathe rhythmically
. Regular breathing maximises the oxygen available to both you and your baby. Using massage can help you to relax your shoulders and breathe rhythmically.Your
birth partner
should place his hands on your shoulders and lean lightly on them. This will help you to drop your shoulders if they are already hunched because you have become stressed. Next he can stroke down from your shoulders to your elbows, maintaining a rhythmic action and applying firm pressure. Tell him whether the massage is helping you and how he could make it better.He could also try resting his hands on top of your shoulders and using his thumbs to massage in small, firm circles behind your shoulder blades. Tell him if he is pressing too hard or not hard enough, or if he is massaging too quickly. It’s important for him to avoid frantic massage, as this will probably speed up your breathing when the aim is to slow it down!Many women feel contractions strongly in their lower back, so
lower back massage
may help.In
early labour
, your partner can use the flat of his hand to stroke down the side of your spine, from shoulder to bottom. He then uses the other hand to stroke down the other side of your spine, maintaining a rhythmic movement, with one hand constantly in contact with you. These long, slow strokes can be very soothing.Make sure that he is massaging you using the whole of his hand and not just the heel. His fingers need to be in contact with your body as he tries to respond to the tensions he finds there.In advanced labour, your
birth partner
can use the heel of his hand to press firmly over the base of your spine. He will need to apply quite a lot of pressure to counteract strong contractions so gently leaning in with his body weight is one way to conserve his energy. Or he can use his thumbs to make circles over the dimples in your bottom. Tell him what you find most helpful.Watch our
video
on lower back massage in labour.Even if you don’t usually like having your feet touched, you may still enjoy a firm, rhythmic foot massage in labour. The massage does need to be firm, however, or it will be unbearably ticklish.If you find yourself
sitting down
, or in bed for long periods of your labour, foot massage is ideal. Your partner can simply stroke your feet firmly from ankle to toes, or make circles with his thumbs all over the soles of your feet. You may find that your feet become very cold in labour, and a foot massage will help to warm them up.If you’ve had an
epidural
and you’re lying in bed, shoulder or back massage is difficult. And if you can’t feel your feet, there’s no point in your partner offering you a foot massage. In these circumstances, hand massage may be very soothing.Your birth partner can simply stroke each hand in turn, first on the back, then on the palm, sweeping firmly down from your wrist to your fingertips. He can make small circles all over your palm, and gently pull each finger in turn to release the tension. This is a lovely way of being close to each other and making your labour special.If your birth partner is keen to massage you in labour, he may be disappointed if you don’t like it. However, some women simply cannot bear to be touched when they are having contractions. Contractions can be so strong that even the slightest touch may be more than you can cope with.Other women find massage so helpful that they want their partners to keep smoothing their shoulders or pressing their lower backs for hours on end!Your birth partner needs to be flexible and understand that massage techniques that bring great comfort in early labour may not help later on. In the later stages of labour, many women can’t bear to be touched and can even become quite aggressive towards their partner. Being able to listen, offer verbal encouragement, respond to your needs, and not take things personally, are key qualities of
a good birth partner
You and your birth partner can practise these massage techniques at home. Or you may both benefit from having a one-to-one with a massage therapist before you go into labourSome, but not all,
antenatal classes
offer physical skills, such as positions and massage techniques, for you and your birth partner to practise. So check before you book a course.Alternatively, your midwife can support you and your partner, by using massage or demonstrating how to use massage techniques when you’re in labourWatch our video to learn more about
being the perfect birth partner

This is is a syndicated post. Read the original at www.babycentre.co.uk

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