The following is a student blog post by a Dana Cluff
MASSAGE THERAPY FOR THE CHILDBEARING YEAR
Massage therapy has been a recommended and highly effective treatment for pregnancy, birth, and the newborn period for thousands of years. Care providers across the world send referrals for fertility massage, pregnancy pain relief, soft tissue tension that can hinder childbirth, helping to turn malpositioned babies in utero, cesarean scar massage work, labor inducing massage, labor pain relief, premature infant massage, and so many more reasons.
In one scientiﬁc study, pregnant women who received just 20 minutes of professional prenatal massage care each week for 5 weeks reported decreased depression, anxiety, and overall discomforts and pain. Cortisol levels also decreased, and this massage group had a lower number of premature births (0% compared to
11% in control group). Massage during pregnancy has been proven to reduce low birthweight in newborns by an impressive 80%. Massaged mothers had lower chances of tissue swelling, developing mood disorders, and had increased bonding with their babies. The newborns of the massaged mothers also had lower cortisol levels than the control group newborns, they preformed better on the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment and demonstrated better motor skills.
Massage therapy is known to be an anxiety-reducer, which is crucial during labor and birth. The main focus of studies about massage during labor, however, is on the alleviation of contraction discomforts. In one study, women in labor were massaged for 15 minutes each hour and they experienced signiﬁcantly less pain, PLUS their labors were 3 hours shorter and the need for medication was reduced. How does this work? The “Gate Theory” states that massage pressure sensation messages (myelinated neurons) travel to the brain much quicker than birth pain messages (unmyelinated neurons). Whichever gets there quicker closes the gate, allowing only the ﬁrst in!
After the birth, the benefits continue on through infant massage techniques. Another study shows us that when premature infants were massaged for just 15 minutes, 3 times a day for 10 days, they gained 47% more weight and stayed 6 less days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) than the babies who did not receive massage. Amazingly, they also had better assessment scores through 12 months of age than the control group. The research shows us that everyone in the childbearing year should look more into massage therapy! Do it for yourself, do it for your baby, do it for health!
To read more about these studies:
Dana Cluff is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Birth Doula, and Placenta Encapsulation Specialist serving families in the North Texas metroplex. She is the owner of Bump to Baby Birth Services and was voted Best Birth Doula in the Denton County 2015 awards.