Massage in Childbirth: How Touch Can Provide Pain Relief During Labor

provide pain relief massage in childbirth
Pregnant woman embracing her belly, isolated on white.

One of the most effective tools for pain relief during childbirth continues to be massage. What are some of the ways that touch can provide comfort during labor?

Massage in Childbirth Provides Relaxation to Tense Muscles

Childbirth for the first-time mother can be long and arduous. Even mothers with fast labors will find they inadvertently tense their muscles during contractions. So one of the ways massage is helpful for childbirth is that labor partners can use touch to relax mother’s tension as well as provide a tactile reminder to relax during labor.

Massage Provides Relief to Back Labor

Massage in the form of direct counterpressure is very effective to provide back labor relief. Counterpressure to Mom’s lower back can reduce the sharp back pain and give her a pleasant sensation that competes with the unpleasant one of back labor pain that occurs both during and in between contractions.

Massage in Childbirth Reduces Lactic Acid Build-up

If the labor partner massages the mother during labor, it can help to reduce the amount of lactic acid that builds up from the stress and strain on her body’s muscles. If lactic acid builds up during labor, it will cause her body to be very sore after childbirth is over.

Massage Increases the Level of Endorphins in the Mother

One of the amazing things about massage in childbirth, as well as any massage, is that it can increase the production of endorphins. Endorphins are powerful hormones that provide increased energy, relaxation and pain relief all at the same time. What more does a mother need during labor?


If the mother’s endorphins kick in during labor, then it can also have the added benefit of helping to progress her labor. Labor is more likely to progress normally when the mother is relaxed and able to let go of trying to control her labor.

Types of Massage to Provide Pain Relief in Childbirth

Mothers may prefer different types of massage at various stages of labor. It would not be unusual for her to like a lighter massage in early labor and firm counterpressure during active labor. Here are types of massage you can try during labor:

  1. Effleurage – Light massage with just the fingertips, sometimes done in light circles over mother’s tummy, thighs or back.
  2. Stroking – Another light massage technique, some mothers may like gentle stroking up and down their arms, legs, face, neck or back.
  3. Counterpressure – Counterpressure is more of a pressure technique, rather than a massage. Place the heel of your hand against her tailbone or any place in her lower back where she is experiencing back pain. Hold the side of her hip with your other hand so she does not have to resist you.
  4. Kneading – Use your open hands to cup areas of her body and use your fingers to “knead” her muscles like you would bread dough. Do not dig in or pinch with your fingers. Sometimes this type of massage feels better in between contractions than during contractions.
  5. Hand and Feel Massage – Mothers generally find massage on their hands and feet pleasant during labor. Deep kneading and firm pressure typically feels better on the feet, especially for those who are ticklish.

What to do When Mom Does Not Want Massage or Touch

It is not unusual for mothers to change their mind about being touched or massaged during labor. Sometimes touch can be distracting, irritating or even possibly making the pain worse. The best thing for labor partners to do is to take their cues from Mom if she expresses that she does not want to be touched. She knows what type of massage she likes and how she likes it.

If she does not want to be touched at all, try to use verbal encouragement, a cool rag on her forehead or suggest other relaxing activities for comfort such as a soaking in a tub or playing some music.


Massage in Childbirth: How Touch Can Provide Pain Relief During Labor

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