You may feel rather helpless during the birthing process if all you can do is stand there waiting. Massage may create a welcome activity for you — and as a bonus it also relaxes your partner and can even alleviate pain and quicken the labor process.
Below are some general tips for those attempting to offer massage during labor and delivery.
Pay attention to her reactions.
Everyone reacts to labor differently. Some women find being touched comforting during delivery, others find it annoying, and still others alternate between the two during the process. Certain massage techniques that normally are comfortable and soothing may also prove painful. Both of these factors make it especially important to pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues as to what to continue doing and what to stop.
Use positions to your advantage.
It’s not uncommon for women in labor to move around-a lot, if they can at least. Which massage technique is best is going to depend largely on the position she has chosen at any given moment. For example, if she’s trying to stand, suggesting foot massage is not ideal, but working the shoulders or back may be fine. Follow her lead.
Familiarize yourself with common labor massage techniques.
Improper massage can actually do more harm than good and may even cause injury. Particularly if things such as acupressure points are going to be utilized, a professional should be consulted to help teach how to properly perform such actions. Some common massage choices include:
Foot massage: Apply steady pressure to the center of arch of the foot using your thumbs in a circular motion.
Outer legs: Using a loose fist gently work the outer edge of the leg in an upward motion to increase circulation. Avoid the inner thighs and deep tissue massage as this may increase the already higher risk of blood clots.
Back: Apply rhythmic pressure to the back in a kneading fashion using your thumbs and the heel of your hand. If pain becomes severe, create a flattened surface out of your knuckles by folding your fingers over your palm. Use this surface to apply pressure to the lower back just above the pelvis. In most cases, this pressure needs to be quite strong, but it can lessen back pain during labor.
Shoulders: Work in slow rhythmic motions downward. Method and hand position are less important here, but keep actions slow and steady. Avoid rapid movements and pinching like motions. The aim in shoulder massage is soothing and physical comfort. It’s more about showing you’re there and calm than anything else.
Hand: Finally, certain pain medications can cause difficulty feeling lower extremities. These same medications often require mothers to remain lying down. The first count makes most lower body massages pointless, and the later makes shoulder and back massage difficult. This makes hand massage and ideal option for medicated labours. Massage the palms in a circular motion or consider the use of the acupressure point in the webbing between the thumb and forefinger. Providing consistent pressure on this point for several minutes at a time may alleviate labor pain.
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