Can massage naturally and safely induce labor?

Ahh... due dates. In my experience, due dates are the number one cause of stress during a normal pregnancy... and I'm not kidding. It's right around 39 weeks...40 weeks...41 weeks that we get panicked phone calls from moms asking us "HELP ME, DO SOMETHING, RELAX ME, MASSAGE ME, ACUPRESSURE ME.... GET THIS BABY OUT!" Motives range from "I'm miserable and just DONE" to "my mother is flying in" to "my doctor is going out of town" to "my doctor won't let me go past 41 weeks."

I have news for you, my dear friends: babies don't have calendars.

They don't care what day you think they are supposed to arrive. Unless you have a good reason to interfere, babies just come when they're plain ready.

But I certainly sympathize! I used to say that pregnancy was one month too long, because by about 36 weeks, I felt just perfect, not too uncomfortable. Then it seems I started hanging on for dear life, counting down the days and minutes (as if that were even possible.) Then, I became the target for all kinds of unsolicited comments and questions like:

"Wow, when are you due?" (Ten days ago. Pick your jaw back up off the floor.)

"When are they going to induce you?" (Who is this mysterious "they" of whom you speak? Midwives don't induce for home births. But I don't want to have to explain my birth choices to you.)

"When are they going to take the baby?" (Umm... Like, an alien abduction? Sorry, nobody is going to "take" my baby.)

That's me, 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant in 2006. Puffy and forcing a smile.

That's me, 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant in 2006. Puffy and forcing a smile.

"How far are they going to let you go past your due date?" (Well... again, this is my body, my baby, my birth - so as long as my midwive says things look great, I'm going to just wait until the baby decides to come. I know, weird to make my own informed choice, huh?)

"How many more days (till the baby comes)?" (As if I know. Next time you plant a seed, please tell me the exact date the fruit will be ripe and fall from the tree.) :D

Apparently my first little guy decided to show up at 42 weeks. Completely normal for a first-time, low-risk mom. In fact, 40 weeks is pretty inaccurate for first time moms. Studies show first time moms tend to give birth around 41.5 weeks.

So, according to my holy due date, my first baby was TWO WEEKS LATE! or was he??

According to one due date calculator, he was "due" September 3rd, 2006.
According to another, September 11th, 2006.
Ultrasound at 20 weeks said September 9th, 2006.
But he arrived on September 20th, 2006.

After he was born, I found another online due date calculator that allowed for an adjustment of up to a 45-day menstrual cycle (which was my body's average at the time he was conceived. Hooray for irregular periods.) Out of curiosity, I plugged in my LMP prior to his conception and guess what it spit out? A due date of September 20th, 2006. The day he was born. My next baby coincidentally was also "due" mid-September two years later (I refused to give a 'date') - but if you must know, he was born three days after his "due date". Here's a blog entry about how I worked through the stressful belief that my baby was supposed to be born already.

Due date calculators mostly assume you have a 28-day cycle and that you ovulate on day 14 of that cycle. Not so. Not for many women, and certainly not for me. It's a complete guess, an estimate, an average. If you want to see how accurate "averages" are for YOU, just go to the shoe store and purchase for yourself anything in the "average" shoe size for women - don't bother trying it on. Or the average pant size, or hat size, or ring size. It's guaranteed to fit you. :D

I'd like to rent a billboard that says "Your Baby's Due Dates is a GUESS, not a scheduled departure!"

Hang on - isn't this supposed to be an article about massage to naturally induce labor?

Right! My rant is over.

First and foremost, when we get phone calls at Salt Lake Prenatal Massage requesting "natural labor stimulation massage" I urge my pregnant friends to think about what their motive is for wanting to do something to "get this baby out."

'Cause here's the thing: Just about every woman starts getting antsy around 38 weeks. Why? Because you know your baby's birth is certainly coming, and knowing that, suddenly the joy in the present moment is robbed by the future looming above your head. You stop being "here" and your mind is out there in the future somewhere. THAT is what creates most of the stress and anxiety at the end of pregnancy and makes women say "I'm DONE." ('cept your not, 'cause if there is a baby in there, your pregnancy is not over. Facts are facts, regardless of your opinion.)

Aches and pains and extreme discomfort can make you want to jump the gun. But that's what Salt Lake Prenatal Massage is here for. You really don't have to be in pain. We can help make you as comfortable as humanly possible.

SO - my philosophy is that women are mammals, and just like any mammal, we won't go into labor when we are watched, threatened, chased, and pressured. So if any of those adjectives apply to you, you've got to stop and think about shifting your perspective.

When you are experiencing stress, your body releases hormones into your bloodstream that trigger other hormones and messages that govern physiological processes. These hormones can interfere with the normal process of labor.

(For example, a friend of mine was expecting her third child. She and her husband were in the process of a divorce and she did NOT want him at the birth. He showed up anyway. Within moments of his arrival, her intense labor came to a screeeeching halt and the midwife had to ask the dad to leave. As soon as she felt safe again, labor picked up and baby was born. Point: How you feel emotionally can affect your body's ability to labor.)

Therefore, I say, if you are stressed - even just about your due date - your body is going to have a harder time going into labor. If you feel like you have to give birth on someone else's timeline, and it's creating stress for you, you might want to reconsider your choices and ask questions or make changes so that YOU feel safe and supported. A watched pot never boils!

SO! Can Massage naturally induce labor?

Well, be clear, there is no magic point to rub that will start the process. You can't think of labor stimulation massage like getting a pitocin IV (And - realize that there are times when even pitocin fails to induce labor. p.s. you can read all about the risks of Pitocin/Elective Induction here.) Your body has to be ready. Your mind has to be ready. Your BABY has to be ready! Your life will not be easier with baby on the outside, ask any mother!

How can massage help induce labor? Well, massage will help lower the stress hormones in the bloodstream. It will also help raise the output of the feel-good hormones in the bloodstream. It is my strong belief and theory that lowering stress hormones can help in the natural labor process.

Acupressure has also been shown to significantly impact the body's ability to go into labor. I've read studies, and I teach my staff about it. So we work certain acupressure points during a labor stimulation massage and teach our clients how to do it themselves. Acupressure needs to be repeated several times daily.

Certain essential oils (extracts from plants and flowers) have chemical properties that can help stimulate uterine activity. We use a special combination of essential oils during a labor stimulation massage. Can't hurt - and sure smells good!

There's more to it, but we can't let all of our secrets out!

If you would like to make an appointment for a labor stimulation massage, we recommend you schedule your first session for 75 minutes so that we can do a full massage PLUS acupressure. (If you schedule 60 mins, we have to leave some of the massage out so that we have time for acupressure.)

We also recommend you come back daily, or as often as possible, for repeat sessions (only $58 each when you are coming daily for labor stim!) until you have the baby. Natural processes take time, and our approach is gentle and is more effective when repeated.

We have clients who SWEAR that we put them in labor. Maybe... but the thing is, that baby is going to come out one way or the other, so we can't take total credit for "putting a woman in labor with massage". It could be coincidence, or not, we just don't know. Sometimes women feel great relief from doing anything they feel helps them along in a gentle, natural, non-intrusive way.

We offer labor stimulation massage sessions to women who are 39 weeks and beyond, for whom no medical condition exists tht would make labor stimulation inadvisable. If we can help make your final days of pregnancy a little easier, please give us a call at 801-784-6511

Efficacy aside, I certainly can state unequivocally that having repeat massage sessions at the final stretch of your pregnancy will work wonders for your body, mind and soul.

Here's what our clients have to say:

I love Salt Lake Prenatal Massage. It's nice to go somewhere that has the facilities and tools to give you a quality prenatal massage. I know from experience that other places will offer prenatal massages but they don't even have the education or tools to do a good job. As a side note: I came in at 41 weeks pregnant for a labor stimulation massage from Rebecca Overson and it put me into labor. Thanks! If you are planning a natural birth be sure to schedule a massage here as you near labor. It will help you relax and prepare you for the birth. Not only it is SO relaxing, but Rebecca is incredibly supportive and makes you feel like you can accomplish anything in the world. I left feeling like a rockstar! - Mom of One, Salt Lake City, Utah

Rebecca,

My baby was born the day after I last saw you!! Thanks again for the awesome massage!! I swear you have magic hands! My labor was fast and intense. I was having mild contractions that night, not unlike what I had all week, I got into bed and all of a sudden my water broke and I felt like i was in transition! 45 min later our daughter was born. We barely made it to the hospital in time. She is littlle, 5lb 11oz but healthy and happy. I am also feeling good.

Thanks again for fitting me in on such short notice. It was so nice meeting you. Take care!

RS, North Salt Lake, Utah
Mother of two

“I went to Salt Lake Prenatal Massage for a natural labor stimulation massage when I was 41 weeks along. It was incredible and absolutely worth it. I was lucky to have the owner, Rebecca Overson, as my massage therapist. Rebecca spent a lot of time working pressure points and relieving the tension in my body. She used an amazing blend of aromatherapy oils that she created herself.

I loved being able to relax and focus on my body and baby during the massage. Oh and being able to lay on my stomach was pure bliss!

Rebecca was a joy to visit with because we have very similar views on pregnancy and childbirth. Besides being a LMT she is also a trained birth doula. She knew exactly how to make a pregnant girl feel supported, empowered, and beautiful.

Rebecca went two weeks overdue with her first baby, so she could definitely empathize with me and also encourage me. Like me, Rebecca didn’t want to be induced and wanted to let the baby come on his own. It was so refreshing that when I walked in the door and she asked how far along I was that she didn’t say “Oh you poor thing!” Instead she said, “That’s normal!”

…follow up email received from the same woman only 7 hours later:

“Hey Heidi,

I was planning to schedule another natural labor stimulation appointment for next week but I am in labor now!  Please let Rebecca know I really appreciated the massage and I know it helped set things in motion.

Thanks, H.B.”