If you are over your due date anything that helps you go into labor is welcome so using a massage chair may seem like a great choice. However, they may not be the safest choice if you are in the first or third trimester.
Pregnancy can seem to go on and on especially near to your due date! Many women try a massage chair to relax but also in the hope of inducing labor.
Massage chairs may induce labor because they target specific pressure points especially on the lower back. This is not scientifically proven but many women resort to using a lower back massage at this time, however it is not advised to use a massage chair in the third trimester.
There are many theories about inducing labor by massaging pressure points on the lower back and the hands.
Back Massage to Induce Labor
A back massage at any time is relaxing and may reduce anxiety and stress. There is a lot of research into how effective back massage is in reducing pain and anxiety during labor but not much on it actually inducing labor.
Women, from time immemorial have resorted to weird and wonderful methods to get their labor started. My mother chose to go for a ride in an old bone shaker car of my grandfather’s… it didn’t work but she had a nice day out!
Hot spicy food is a popular choice too! As is sexual intercourse (the last thing on my mind when I was 39 weeks pregnant… but some women find it effective… if a little awkward!)
Here is some research on the myths about inducing labor – Survey of Folk Beliefs About Induction of Labor.
So how effective a back massage will be, even with knowledge of pressure points of the back, it is not a proven method of inducing labor.
That being said, it is not advised to use a massage chair during the third trimester. This appears to be conflicting information so I would advise you to talk to your Midwife or Doctor before you resort to massage to induce labor, even a traditional hand massage.
Definition of Term Pregnancy
One thing to consider before you think of trying to get your labor moving is – are you actually full-term or even over due?
In 2013 (reaffirmed in 2017) research was published by ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology)
Before this research was published, ‘term’ was the period from 3 weeks before until 2 weeks after the estimated date of delivery. This was based on the belief that all newborns born within this period had similar maturity and health outcomes. This has now been seen to not be the case. As a result the following is now used to identify stages of pregnancy.
- Early term (37 0/7 weeks of gestation through 38 6/7 weeks of gestation),
- Full term (39 0/7 weeks of gestation through 40 6/7 weeks of gestation),
- Late term (41 0/7 weeks of gestation through 41 6/7 weeks of gestation), and
- Post-term (42 0/7 weeks of gestation and beyond) to more accurately describe deliveries occurring at or beyond 37 0/7 weeks of gestation.
Therefore, you should have close consultation with both your midwife and your doctor before you decide you are ‘overdue’.
What is an Induction Massage?
This form of massage is usually performed by a specially trained massage therapist. It is based on the theory of Acupuncture but uses firm hands on acupressure points of the body.
Research on the validity or efficacy of this form of massage is not extensive. Anecdotal reports from women who have tried this are mostly positive.
What Are the Dangers of Using a Massage Chair When Pregnant?
Using a massage chair during the first and third trimester is not advised. This is due in part to the intensity of the massage but also the effects of a heating pad incorporated into the chair design.
There is no specific research to evidence that using a massage chair can actually be harmful to either you or your baby but there are some things to consider before you even think of trying one out.
Some specific contra-indications to using a massage chair include:
- If you are in the first trimester
- You are in the third trimester
- You have been diagnosed with Preeclampsia
- If you have Oedema
- Pre-exiting health conditions such as a history of PE (Pulmonary embolism)
- History of DVT’s (deep vein thrombosis)
- High-risk pregnancy
- Swelling or severe headaches
* This is not an exhaustive list and you should always consult your midwife or doctor before you use any massage equipment.
‘Over-heating’ when pregnant –
Most massage chairs have a heat setting, especially in the lower back/lumbar region. Research carried out by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) found that any overheating during pregnancy can cause health problems for both mother and baby.
Our ‘normal’ temperature range is usually between 97 degrees Fahrenheit to 99 degrees. During pregnancy a woman’s temperature is often 0.4 degrees above the ‘normal’ 98.6.
ACOG advise pregnant women to not allow their temperature to go above 102.2 degrees. Therefore, a heating pad on a massage chair, which targets the lower back can elevate the core temperature which can be high risk.
Benefits of Using a Massage Chair When Pregnant
Pregnancy can be the best time of your life but it does have its stresses.
Therefore anything that can induce a feeling of calmness and well-being will benefit you. There is nothing more relaxing than enjoying a gentle massage when you may be feeling stressed and anxious.
Research from NCBI (US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health) found –
Comorbidity of anxiety and PPD was 75%. Trait anxiety and early postpartum state anxiety are significant predictors of postpartum anxiety.Source
A high percentage of women experience anxiety during pregnancy which as the research shows can translate to ongoing anxiety after giving birth. Therefore any form of relaxation during all stages of pregnancy will be of benefit.
A good quality massage chair with low intensity settings can be beneficial and if you buy one for your home you will definitely be happy you have one to use whenever you want once you have given birth.
Any form of pampering for new parents is a plus but you can’t always get out for a massage or a pampering session with a newborn baby!
Can a Massage Chair Hurt Your Baby?
A baby in the womb is surrounded by fluid and structures to protect it from the outside environment so it is highly unlikely a gentle massage will cause any problems or harm to your baby.
There are a few things to consider before you have any form of massage as mentioned above but for most women a massage is only beneficial.
What Alternative Relaxation Therapies Are Beneficial in Pregnancy?
A long warm bath with candles and soft music (there isn’t any research I can find to support this… but it worked for me!) Plus, water birth has long been seen as a more gentle and less stressfull way to give birth. Water is very healing at any time.
Anything which reduces stress during pregnancy, but especially during the later stages when you are in active labor will be beneficial.
There are peer reviewed research studies which show the benefits of alternative therapy during labor.
So if you are looking for a way to induce labor, there are many variables to consider… but be assured… your body will know when it is time to go into labor. Trust your body’s ability… it is a natural process but if you are unsure or anxious talk to your midwife or doctor for reassurance.
- Pregnancy and labor massage – ncbi
- Acupressure for inducing labor: What to know – Medical News Today
- The Effect of Foot Reflexology on Anxiety, Pain, and Outcomes of the Labor in Primigravida Women – acta
- Pregnancy Massage – WebMed
- Survey of Folk Beliefs About Induction of Labor – Wiley online library
- Definition of Term Pregnancy – acog
- Anxiety During Pregnancy and Postpartum: Course, Predictors and Comorbidity with Postpartum Depression – NCBI