Pregnancy massage could be on message for your partner
It’s week 7 of the pregnancy and, with your partner’s body largely the same, and the expected date of delivery still some time away you could be forgiven for just carrying on as usual. You might even, as many dads-to-be do, wish to bury your head in the sand and block out all thoughts of the enormity of the event to come.
However, it is best to begin the process of readying yourself not only for the arrival of the child but also for the labour and delivery.
One thing you can do towards this which can bring plenty of benefit in the here and now is to learn some basic massage techniques in readiness for the labour (and it might be quite good to get some practice in now, as well).
Massage is known to stimulate the production of endorphins, the body’s in-built pain relief and mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. Even if you’ve never heard of them, you are doubtlessly familiar with their sensation: they are behind that rush you get after a good run, game of football, laughing fit or particularly satisfying sex session.
So, why not learn how to massage your partner through pregnancy and labour? The great news is that even if she doesn’t want it on the big day, regular massage leading up to birth can help her through some of the more difficult symptoms (yes, she’s not going to ‘glow’ all the time) while it can also significantly enhance your bond.
Your partner’s body is incredibly busy during pregnancy and good circulation is integral to the health of both mother and child. Well-administered, regular full body massage can help improve circulation, to raise red blood cell count and increase haemoglobin production, potentially even reducing the risk that she develops some form of iron deficiency.
Pregnancy places inevitable strain on your partner’s back. This is not only because of the excess weight created by the growing baby, but also because of the displacement of major organs, bones and muscle tissue.
By giving regular massage, you can help relax muscles, relieve tension and provide your partner with some much needed time out of mind.
The growing baby and uterus could cause compression of the sciatic nerve, in many cases this means serious pain radiating down the buttock, the back of the thigh, the lower leg and even the foot. Carefully applied massage therapy can help relieve this pressure, thereby improving physical and mental wellbeing for your partner.
Stress, anxiety and headaches
Stress and anxiety are a feature of all our lives. However, during pregnancy they can feel particularly intolerable. By giving your partner regular massages you can help reduce the intensity, frequency and impact of stress and anxiety. You may also help to reduce heartburn, a common feature of pregnancy which can be exacerbated by stress.
Additionally, many women suffer from headaches during pregnancy, with as many as one in ten suffering from pregnancy-related migraines. Massages of the neck, shoulders and even head can help relieve tension, improve circulation and thereby reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches.
Pelvic Girdle Pain
Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) is a painful and debilitating feature of pregnancy for some women and is in fact experienced to some degree by as many as 45% of mothers-to-be.
Massage can stimulate the release of oxytocin and endorphins, thereby reducing the pain and debilitation of PGP.
Stretch mark management
Massaging with a nutrient-rich oil – try organic wheatgerm oil – can help to moisturise the skin and to reduce the appearance of post-partum stretch marks. However, before using any oil be sure to check that it is safe for application during pregnancy.
The benefits of massage during labour
As well as stimulating the release of endorphins, massage during labour can also help ground you in the birthing process, making you feel both more connected to your partner and to the experiences she is going through.
Many women report that massage has helped ease the pain of their contractions while also lessening their feelings of anxiety.
And the benefits of massage are not merely supported by anecdotal evidence. Numerous studies have shown the benefits, including one (Psychosom. Obstet. Gynaecol. 1997;18:286–291. [PubMed]), which found that massage during the first 15 minutes of every hour of labour “decreased anxiety and pain and the need for pain medication.” Significantly, the study also found that mothers who received massage had a shorter labour, a shorter hospital stay and lower levels of depression.
It makes you feel useful
During pregnancy and childbirth men often feel that they are little more than a spare part. By making yourself useful and engaging physically with your pregnant partner you can avoid succumbing to that feeling. There is something really powerful and primal about the laying on of hands. It’s sensual and wonderful and allows you to really connect with your partner.
It is also worth bearing in mind that a good massage may help to get her in the mood for other intimate pleasures. So what have you got to lose?
If you haven’t had much experience of massage, there are plenty of tutorials out there on YouTube. If you would like professional instruction, you may wish to contact a doula or other local provider so that you can confidently increase your massage skills base.
Go on – you might just make her day – after all she’s making you a baby.