Labor and delivery
If you are like many women, chances are you will be spending some time alone during labor. For some, this time is in early labor, before they need much assistance to stay comfortable. But what can you do if you are alone when labor starts demanding your attention during contractions? What can you do if you need help to relax, but do not want to be touched? Using self-massage techniques can help you in either of these situations.
Self-massage can take on many forms. It can be as simple as rubbing your feet or as complex as balancing a ball between your back and the wall. While self-massage may not work during the strong contractions of late active labor or transition, it can help you stay relaxed while contractions begin to build. The following are some self-massage techniques you can practice so you will be prepared should you desire to use them during labor.
Effleurage is a light, skimming touch. It can be done with your finger tips or the palm of your hand. Gently glide your hands across the skin of your belly or legs. Use circular movements and use only as much pressure as is comfortable. Think of it as continuous movement with steady pressure.
Release the tension in your hands and arms by using a pressure point in the fleshy part between the thumb and forefinger. Squeeze this skin between the thumb and forefinger of your other hand, rolling and rotating it as comfortable. You can also squeeze each finger individually. Begin at the base of the finger and work your way down to the tip.
If you hold tension in your face, it may feel good to massage your temples and forehead. Using two fingers, gently press your fingers just below your temples. Begin making small circles with your fingers, moving up the sides of your head and toward the middle of your forehead. It can also feel good to press your fingers gently into the center of your forehead, sliding them down the sides of your nose and under your eyes, and back around the outside of your face to circle back to the center of your forehead.
If your feet feel tired, consider trying a foot massage. Using your thumbs, press into the ball or heel of your foot. Use both of your hands to gently but firmly knead the foot. Squeeze each toe, stretching it to the point of comfort. Keep the pressure constant and keep your hands moving.
If your back is sore, you can use a tennis ball and wall to help relieve some of the discomfort. Stand with your back to the wall, then place the ball between your back and the wall so it puts pressure on the areas where your back is sore. Rotate your pelvis, sway back and forth, or do whatever other movement you may need to do in order to add movement to the pressure of the ball. If you have trouble holding the ball in place, try putting it in a long clean sock. Hold the ends of the sock so you do not drop the ball.
Although not technically massage, some movements can do a lot to help relieve pressure on your body and release tension. You can release tension in your upper back and shoulders by rolling your shoulders. While keeping your body and head stationary, move your shoulders forward, then up, backward, and down again. Continue in the circle as long as comfortable then rotate the shoulders the other direction. You can do a similar movement with your neck, making a circle with you head.
You can release tension in your legs by rocking in a chair or swaying back and forth on a birth ball. As you move your body, you are slightly changing the pressure points on your legs and buttocks which can give results similar to a gentle massage. If you want more pressure, try putting a golf ball on the chair so it presses into your hip as you rotate your pelvis.
Once you have tried these self-massage techniques, you will probably begin coming up with even more ways to touch and move that feel comfortable to you. Experiment, finding the tools that work best for your body. Then you will be ready to use them if you should find yourself unable to be massaged by a helper during labor.
About the Author:
Jennifer Vanderlaan has been helping families prepare for childbirth since
1999. In addition to her work as a childbirth educator and a doula, she runs
a resource for families to find the information they need to prepare to give
birth. Her materials, including three books on Christian childbirth, are used
by midwives, childbirth educators and doulas around the world.