Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Benefits of Massage During Labor

I have never had a Cesarean so while I can't share in the Cesarean Awareness Month personally, I can attest to the benefits of massage during labor. I believe massage during labor shortened the duration of my last two deliveries and definitely helped me deal with the pain. Perhaps this information will save at least one woman from enduring an unnecessary Cesarean.

During my labor with Madilyn, one of my very best friends attended the birth to help me deal with the pain. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist who owns her very own Massage studio where she and her colleagues specialize in Therapeutic Massage. She arrived at the hospital before my labor began (I was induced). Once in the throes of labor though, her touch was so strong and steady that the pain of each contraction was greatly diminished. She eased my contracting muscles and knew all the right places to touch to alleviate the pains in my uterus. It amazed me then as much as it amazes me now that her touch on my lower back helped ease pain in my pelvic region. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Imagine having a horrendous headache then falling down a few stairs in your house, bumping your funny bone on the way down. You’re not thinking about your headache anymore, you’re thinking about your funny bone’s aching and shooting pain up and down your arm.

The same is true during labor. Heating pads, therapeutic touch, and proper positioning can help with pain during labor, resulting in a natural, drug-free experience that is surprisingly devoid of intense pain. The reason that massage during labor is so effective at reducing pain, is due to the “Gate Control Theory”. This theory is based on research that your brain can only process so many signals at one time. Add two or more sensory aids to labor, and pain is greatly reduced.

Research suggests that massage during the early stages of labor helps a laboring woman save her energy for the more difficult active labor. The stress hormone, Adrenaline has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of Oxytocin, the hormone that causes labor to begin and progress. When massage is employed during labor, adrenaline is greatly reduced and Oxytocin is able to flow, causing labor to progress naturally and quickly.

It is no secret that massage loosens muscles. The same is true during labor. Massage loosens the pelvis, allowing it to open up in anticipation of the baby descending into the birth canal. It can also reduce the severity of contractions. While still having contractions, the pain is greatly reduced, allowing your uterus to relax naturally which aids in a much quicker labor. My own massage during labor experiences resulted in a 75 minute labor and a 55 minute labor (this is no exaggeration, and these figures are from first contraction to birth) where my uterus did ALL of the work of pushing my children out of the birth canal. I didn’t have to actively push one single time. I fully believe it was partially because of the massage I received while in labor. My uterus was relaxed and free to do what it was meant to do.

I know of many women who plan on having a drug-free birth but then are unable to withstand the pain of labor. I fully believe that if these women had employed alternate methods of dealing with pain such as massage, heat, water, or a change of position, they would have successfully been able to deliver without medical aids.

Epidurals not only slow labor in a woman who is laboring normally without problems such as high blood pressure, they pose significant risks to mother and child. While I respect every woman’s right to choose the way that she gives birth, I think women often jump too quickly at an epidural before allowing their bodies to prove that they can not only handle the pain of childbirth, but that they can work more effectively without pain medication.

Along with massage during labor, I employed The Mongan Method of Hyphobirthing. This method utilizes deep breathing and visualization of your uterus as a ribbon, loosening (not tightening) during each “contraction”, or surge. Fear of pain actually does a disservice to laboring women. It causes your muscles to tense up which is completely counterproductive to what your uterus is ultimately trying to achieve. When you focus on something other than the pain, your uterus is able to relax and not only is pain reduced but labor is allowed to progress quickly. Add massage to the breathing and visualization and your body is even that much more prepared to work properly, more efficiently, and less painfully.

Add this to your arsenal when trying to decide on whether or not to endure a pain medication free labor. It really isn’t that bad, especially when you arm yourself with knowledge and practice breathing and visualization beforehand. There really are techniques out there that help ease pain naturally. You CAN DO IT, MAMA!


Novak Jim said... [Reply to comment]

Massage therapy is in fact much beneficial for the health. It gives the relaxation to our muscles and body, it is also good for our skin and stress.
Physical Therapy

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