Massage in labour

Can massage help ease labour pains? How does it work - and what positions can you use? Here's everything you need to know about getting a massage during labour...

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As blissful as it can be, massage isn’t going to relieve you completely of pains during labour – but it certainly can help.

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If you’re particularly into massage, find comfort in being touched, or are experiencing a lot of your labour pains in your back, then being massaged during the birth may be able to help you.

Throughout this piece, we’ll answer the frequently asked questions about using massage in labour, including:

We’d recommend giving the whole piece a read, though, just so you’re armed with all the information ?

How can massage help reduce labour pains?

Tense muscles stop your body from releasing its natural painkillers (endorphins), so the ability to relax the muscles is important in labour.

Massage can be soothing, helping you to loosen up and hopefully, making dealing with the pain a much less stressful experience, perhaps even reducing the pain you experience slightly.

It can happen. One study shows that women who were massaged during labour were less anxious, experienced less pain, had shorter labours and were less likely to suffer from postnatal depression than those who hadn’t used massage.

Research also shows that even touch, such as stroking your brow, patting and hand-holding, improves your ability to cope with all that’s going on around you.

Other pain relief options for your labour

How do you get massaged during labour?

Speak to your midwife about the fact you’re interested in massage – he or she may be trained in massage, or may be able to recommend professionals.

You can also, says midwife Anne Richley, ask your partner to help massage you while you’re in labour.

“During pregnancy, ask your partner to stroke your shoulders and back while you sit leaning over a chair or kneel leaning forward into some pillows,” she says.

“Find out what kind of touch you enjoy – and as he becomes used to massaging you he’s more likely to use it instinctively during labour.”

A nice foot and calf rub never goes amiss – but stroking the shoulders helps in particular to promote easy, relaxed breathing.

Make sure that if you do decide to have your partner massage you during labour, that they know what they’re doing, and you talk about it first.

Make your likes and dislikes clear from the get-go – no use getting a massage that makes you feel more sore or tense than you already do.

You also might find on the day that the last thing you want is to be touched, so they should be aware that the plan might suddenly change. Abruptly ?

Which massage positions are safe during labour?

As it happens, most positions are suitable during labour – really, it’s whatever works best for YOU.

“The wonderful thing about massage is that you can be in any position to receive it”, says midwife Anne Richley.

“You might like to kneel leaning forward, lie on your side or even stand leaning over the bed – whatever feels right.”

You can also try leaning on a birthing ball if you’re after a back massage.

Can I use massage oils during labour?

Adding some aromatherapy (essential oils) to massage during labour seems like a natural fit, right?

However, some essential oils aren’t safe to use during pregnancy, so you should do your reading before thinking about including them in your birth plan.

There are plenty you can use for massage in labour though, such as jasmine, lavender or rose.

Everything you should know about aromatherapy in labour

MFM mums who’ve tried massage during labour

“I recently looked after a woman in labour who felt the contractions mainly in her back,” says midwife Anne.

“The only way she could relieve the pain was for me, her partner and her mum to take turns “kneading” the base of her back.

“By the time the baby was born, we all looked more exhausted than she did, but it certainly did the trick!”

One MFM mum also found that a birthing ball made it easier for her partner to massage her, writing:

“Your birth partner/OH can get to your back easy tho so no excuses for not giving you a nice massage in labour ?”

Some found also found the massage with oils really, really helpful.

“The midwife massaged my back with lavender oil when I was in labour,” says mum MissiB. “It was amazing and they provided the oil.”

Share your story

Did you use massage to help alleviate stress and pain during your labour? We’d love to hear your experience if so.

Get in touch via the comments below, on Facebook or Instagram.

Images: Getty Images

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