Many mothers appreciate touch and massage while in labor. Most often the provider of this is a loved one or supporter. While there are not many good studies of the benefit of touch and massage, it is clear that mothers receive significant emotional and physical relief from touch and massage.
Therapeutic touch and massage can include a wide variety of hands on interventions for the mother ranging from therapeutic massage to light caressing and hair stroking. This may include the use of hands, fingertips, or devices to stroke and apply pressure relieving pain and facilitating relaxation. Mothers may be better able to tolerate the pain of labor with better relaxation and a lower baseline level of anxiety.
Many women feel lower back pain associated with the posterior position of the baby's head. Massage or pressure on this area can provide relief from this pain. Pain relief may occur through stress reduction, distraction, or through the stimulation of other receptors.
The benefit pain relief from this modality has not been shown to decrease the utilization of pain medications or other medical interventions. The pain relief in birth appears to last approximately 30 minutes when massage or deep pressure is used. Therefore massage may work best when given in 30-minute intervals with breaks in between.
The above information was obtained from the following publications. If you would like more information on touch and massage we suggest reading the papers and discussing this with your obstetrician.
Simkin PT, Bolding A. Update on nonpharmacologic approaches to relieve labor pain and prevent suffering. J Midwifery and Women's Health 2004;49:489-504
Simkin P. Nonpharmacologic relief of pain during labor:Systematic reviews of five methods, Am J Obstet gynecol, 2002 Volume 186, Number 5 ,S131-159
Murray Enkin. A Guide to Effective Care in Pregnancy and Childbirth, 3rd Ed., Oxford University Press, 2000
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