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Pregnancy massage: benefits for your baby

pregnancy-massage-benefits-for-your-baby A loving touch

Summary

Pregnancy massage can be a beneficial way to help mums-to-be unwind and feel more connected to their baby, as well as helping treat prenatal depression and potentially reduce the risks of premature labour.

Touchpoints

Unborn babies are thought to start to respond to touch by the 13th or 14th week of pregnancy1. Research shows that applying pressure to a mother’s abdomen can cause an acceleration in the baby’s heart rate and increase movement1. While you don’t want to put strong pressure on your bump, gently massaging moisturiser into your tummy may help you to feel connected to your baby – and you may get rewarded by some kicking too. It’s a two-way thing, so give it a go!

“Massage can reduce stress, take away the pain of physical symptoms like backache, improve mental health and lift the mood.”

Massage benefits you both

It’s thought that the main way an unborn baby benefits from touch is through the effect it has on you. Studies into therapies for pregnant women have indicated that massage can reduce stress, take away the pain of physical symptoms like backache, improve mental health and lift the mood2.

Massage and meditation have also been linked to the successful treatment of prenatally depressed women, as well as a reduction in premature labour and low birthweight3,4.

Feelings of relaxation and wellbeing are good for you at any stage of life.

Despite limited research, there can be no doubt that feelings of relaxation and wellbeing are good for you at any stage of life, but particularly during pregnancy. So, if a massage helps you to feel good, that's good news for your baby too. If you are at all concerned that you may be depressed, speak to your midwife or GP. Talking things through could be all the help you need, or they may suggest alternative treatment, such as counselling.

Next Steps

  • Try to spend a few minutes every day talking or singing to your baby. 
  • Feeling tired or stressed? Treat yourself to a specialist pregnancy pamper package, including a massage.
  • If you don’t like people touching your tummy, opt for a head, neck and shoulders; hand; or foot massage. It’ll be just as good.
  • Buy a soothing, pregnancy-friendly aromatherapy oil – the smell could help reduce stress too.
  • Ask your partner to massage away tension in your shoulders, back or feet.
  • If massage isn’t for you, relax your muscles, and your mind, in a warm, scented bath.

View references

Hide references

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1. Lecanuet JP, Schaal B. Fetal sensory competencies. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 1996;68:1-2.

2. Schitter AM et al. Effects of passive hydrotherapy WATSU (WaterShiatsu) in the third trimester of pregnancy: Results of a controlled pilot study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2015;2015:437650.

3. Field T et al. Massage therapy effects on depressed pregnant women. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol 2004;25:115-22.

4. Field T et al. Benefits of combining massage therapy with group interpersonal psychotherapy in prenatally depressed women. J Bodyw Mov Ther 2009;13:297-303.

Last reviewed: 19th June 2016

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