We’re very happy to share an interview with massage therapist and trainer Lisa Gallauresi, LMT on partner massage for pregnancy and labor.Lisa is a massage therapist, parent educator and trainer. She has been an instructor at massage schools, developed curricula for hospitals and training centers, and consulted on prenatal bodywork for large spas including Kripalu Yoga Center. Her training includes newborn and infant massage, and she is a certified prenatal specialist.
If after reading Lisa’s answers you’re sold on the benefits of partner massage for pregnancy and labor, check out Motherlove’s Birth & Baby Oil! It’s gentle enough for both mothers and babies, and has a zero toxin rating.
What are some benefits of having a partner massage a mom during pregnancy and labor?
The benefits of partner massage during pregnancy and labor can be physically and psychologically profound for the mother and her partner. When I teach a partner massage class I provide general tools for relaxation and bonding. We address the most common discomforts of pregnancy and create an environment that facilitates spoken and unspoken physical communication. If a person has specific structural issues or preexisting conditions they need to see a qualified massage therapist or physical therapist.
We know that the positive effects of massage, in general, are greater if administered by her partner. This is in part due to the emotional connection and support that is inherent in the massage. Women experience a decrease in the level of stress hormones, deeper and longer sleep patterns, reduced soreness and pain in muscles and joints, decreased anxiety and less postpartum depression. Partners feel empowered to provide hands on comfort as well as emotional support. Familial adjustments are easier and self-confidence in parenting skills are buoyed. Laboring women feel more attachment with partners and therefore react with more self-assurance and a heightened belief in their ability to cope. The perception of labor outcomes are more positive for both parents when massage is administered.
What are typically moms’ favorite areas to be massaged during pregnancy and labor?
During a typical pregnancy, most women enjoy massage to the low back, shoulders and between the shoulder blades, although you can never go wrong with a nice foot massage! During labor, the intention of the massage shifts. In early labor women may enjoy massage around the jaw and the scalp, lots of kisses and encouraging words. As she shifts into a deeper labor space to prepare for the second stage, she usually does not like light touch. Massage includes deep and sustained pressure to the sacrum and low back with limited talking and focused awareness.
Can you describe some easy massage techniques for pregnancy and another one for labor?
Partner massage tools for pregnancy are more about intention than technique. Loving, focused, hands on time with little or no distraction is a way to connect and be present with each other. Creating space to mentally and spiritually witness each other as partners in a journey creates a strong family foundation to build upon. You do not need special tables or tools to do this massage. Mom can sit on a stool, chair or birth ball that is facing a table, counter or bed at the correct height. She can lean forward with several pillows in front and lean forward. She may need a bunch of pillows to get comfortable. It is best if the table is against a wall so it remains stable.
The partner can take a quarter sized amount of lotion or oil and stand behind her in an open and relaxed stance, feet in a lunge position bending at the knees. Starting slowly and lightly at the nape of the neck he/she can create a diamond shape with open and relaxed hands by going out along the shoulders and down to the mid back where the bra line would be. Warming up the tissue and gradually getting deeper they can “pick up” the tissue at the top of the shoulders and knead it until it softens like dough. Let mom tell you what feels good and follow her directive. Learning what relaxes her is useful information for labor.
During labor, if mom wants to be touched, deep sustained pressure to the sacrum and top of the buttocks is welcomed. A tennis ball is a useful massage tool for long hours of labor massage. Rub the ball along the low back and use it to provide counter pressure in the sacral area. The hands and feet can be reached easily in most labor situations and it feels nice to have a firm foot or hand massage.
Are there some areas to stay away from during pregnancy and labor?
Every pregnancy is unique, so parents need to talk to their health care provider for any contraindications to massage. A licensed massage therapist that specializes in prenatal work can offer private tutorials with specific guidelines that consider adaptations for each couple. In partner massage we do not do leg work because it is specialized. Women should not lie flat on their backs after 13 weeks and should not receive massage while lying on their stomachs. The general rule of thumb in a typical pregnancy is that if it feels good, go for it!
Partner massage is a hands on tool that allows couples the opportunity to bond and communicate. Pregnancy and labor is perceived more positively if mom feels supported and cared for. Many partners want concrete tools to show support and therefore feel as if they are participating in the process. Learning to listen and support a new mother is a skill that I hope will translate into the postpartum period and provide a strong family foundation for years to come!