Massage therapy is widely recognized as an effective way to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and prevent injury.
It is less commonly known that massage therapy is also effective in treating pregnancy-related issues, including difficulty conceiving. Massage can help to support a pregnant person as their body changes throughout pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum recovery.
Further, massage therapy can be beneficial for infants who are affected by common childhood ailments, such as colic or poor sleep.
Amanda Roth, a massage therapist with the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada, specializes in pregnancy health and fertility. She supports couples who are facing fertility issues, birth complications, or new baby struggles.
Massage and fertility
Trying to conceive can be a stressful time. Massage therapy helps promote relaxation and an overall sense of well-being.
Research has shown that stress hormones can negatively affect fertility, causing a condition called stress-induced reproductive dysfunction. This condition causes disruption to hormone levels and affects regular menstruation, making conception difficult.
Massage can help restore hormone balance and promote a regular menstrual cycle, increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, and prepare a positive environment for conception to occur.
Massage throughout pregnancy
Prenatal massage is popular among expectant parents. In the first two trimesters of pregnancy, massage is used mainly for stress management and hormone regulation. It is also great for teaching breathing techniques to use during labour.
In the third trimester, massage plays a vital role in preparing the body for birth. It helps relax the muscles around the reproductive organs, prepare the hips and pelvis for delivery, and promote optimal positioning of the fetus.
Fetal positioning is particularly important, as sitting all day can cause the baby to enter the pelvis in a posterior position (facing the abdomen instead of the spine), which can delay labour and cause severe back pain.
“People nearing birth need movement and exercise,” explains Amanda. “Massage helps them both relax and prepare their bodies for labour, increasing the likelihood of a natural birth.”
Receiving massage treatments after birth can help the birthing parent recover more quickly. Benefits of postpartum massage include pain relief, decreased swelling, hormone regulation, and improved breastfeeding.
Common issues Amanda sees in her postpartum clients include swelling; water retention; and lingering back, pelvic, and abdominal pain. She recommends that, if possible, people receive massage therapy six to eight weeks after delivery.
“There is a common misconception that someone postpartum needs to have a specific issue to seek treatment,” says Amanda. “The body is unwinding 40 weeks of work in about 6 weeks; a bit of care and relaxation can go a long way.”
Postpartum massage techniques can also be used to help with lactation, which is a common source of stress among new parents. Certain pressure points help promote the production of breastmilk and encourage let-down (when the milk is released from the breast).
Infant massage involves courses where caregivers learn simple, relaxing massage techniques and stretches to help deepen the parent-child relationship and to manage some childhood discomforts.
“Infants take things quickly and easily,” explains Amanda. “It’s not like an adult where you work on them for an hour. I work on babies for maybe 10 to 15 minutes.”
Infant massage sessions teach parents how to address classic childhood issues — like gas or colic — through touch. It also helps infants relax, release stress, and sleep better while stimulating better health and growth in mind and body.
Techniques are taught slowly to parents, giving them time to practice under the guidance of an instructor so they are both confident and careful when using the techniques at home.
Many other holistic treatments can help with issues related to fertility, pregnancy, or postpartum health.
If you are looking for holistic care to complement your massage therapy treatments, Amanda recommends looking at reflexology and acupressure. “While these practices are great for promoting relaxation, they also help smooth the flow of hormones throughout the body,” she explains.
Regardless of what you choose, massage therapy and other holistic treatments offer effective, non-invasive support for fertility, prenatal health, birth, and postpartum recovery.
Amanda Roth is a registered massage therapist with the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada, an Acupuncturist, a Traditional Chinese Medicine Herbologist. She is also a fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM) and a sessional instructor in the Acupuncture Program at MacEwan University.