Massage Techniques for Labor

An often-practiced method of natural pain relief during labor, massage can work wonders by relaxing an expectant mother’s tense muscles and easing discomfort. It is also a known technique for triggering the release of endorphins, which act as natural pain relievers and mood boosters. While not all women enjoy being massaged during contractions, most find it extremely helpful and comforting. If you suspect that you belong to the latter group, have your birth partner try the following massage techniques:

Shoulder Massage: 

When in labor, start by relaxing your shoulders as much as possible and breathe rhythmically to help ease the tension out of your body. Have your birth partner place their hands on your shoulders and gently apply light pressure by leaning on them to get you to drop your shoulders further if they're hunched up. Once your shoulders aren't hunched, have your partner rhythmically stroke downwards from your shoulders to your elbows while applying firm pressure. Give your partner ongoing feedback on what would make you feel more comfortable in order to adjust their massage techniques suitably. One other method that your birth partner can use is to place their hands on the top of your shoulders and use their thumbs to massage in circular motions behind your shoulder blades. Have them adjust the pressure and speed based on your preferences. Keep in mind that the best kind of calming massage is the slow kind, so try to keep your partner's motions leisurely rather than frantic.

Back Massage: 

The lower back is one area that often becomes tense during contractions, so to ease lower back pain during early labor simply have your birth partner use the flat of one hand to rhythmically stroke one side of your spine in a downward motion from your shoulder to your rear. Next, have them use the other hand to stroke the other side of the spine in the same way. Make sure that your partner uses the whole of their hand, not just the heal, when performing the massage, as their fingers need to be touching your body in order to respond to your back's different tension spots. During more advanced stages of labor, have your partner use the heel of their hand to massage the area over the base of your spine; make sure they apply a good deal of pressure in order to counteract the contractions. Another method is to have them use their thumbs to perform circular massage motions over the dimples in your bottom. Choose whichever method you find to be more comfortable.

Foot Massage: 

Very few women will not enjoy a good foot massage – even those who normally dislike having their feet touched! So it’s worth a try to have your partner give you a firm and rhythmic foot massage when you’ve been in bed for a long time during labor and your feet have gone cold. It’s important that your partner applies pressure during the massage, otherwise the massage will feel more ticklish. Have your birth partner stroke your feet starting from the ankles and moving to the toes, or use their thumbs to massage in circular motions over the soles of your feet.

Hand Massage:

A shoulder, back or foot massage might not be helpful if you’ve had an epidural and don’t have much feeling in the lower part of your body. If that is the case, a hand massage is a good choice for you. Simply have your partner stroke each of your hands in turn, starting by stroking the back of one hand before moving onto stroking the palm, making sure to sweep from the wrist to the fingertips. Another technique your partner can use is to massage your palm in a circular motion, then lightly pull at each of your fingers.