Although honing one’s massage skills is critical to developing as a healer, instructing lay people how to therapeutically touch their loved ones can be one of the best ways to infuse health into people’s lives. Despite a lack of professional knowledge and expertise, the power of intention is enough to improve the health of couples who massage one another. Teaching partner massage is especially valuable during pregnancy, when the participation and support of the partner is the most appreciated offering an expectant mother could receive.
The massage therapy profession as a whole uses a holistic approach to help people improve their health. According to the Canadian Holistic Medical Association, holistic medicine is defined as a system of health care which fosters a cooperative relationship among all those involved, leading towards optimal attainment of the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of health.
Instead of evaluating different systems in isolation, massage therapy fits the holistic bill by looking at a person as a conglomeration of their different parts. As such, a person’s emotional, social and spiritual selves are just as important as their physical wellness. Since most massage therapists do not have multiple degrees in psychology, sociology or spirituality, their resources for addressing all aspects of their client’s health is limited. However, teaching couples how to nurture one another with massage therapy incorporates all parts together: physical, social, emotional and spiritual.
Pregnancy initiates a dramatic change to a woman’s identity; by altering her body, creating emotional highs and lows, putting her spiritual beliefs under scrutiny and completely modifying her social roles. Thus, a partner who understands this and takes the time to nurture the expectant mother with touch offers a support system affecting much more than the physical body.
There is no question that massage therapy benefits the physical body.
- A review in the October 2005 edition of the International Journal of Neuroscience confirmed massage’s positive effects of increasing pleasure and decreasing pain. The researchers based this conclusion on biochemistry; massage measurably decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increased levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, both of which correlate with feeling good.
- In a study conducted at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, just 20 minutes of massage twice weekly for five weeks improved moods and sleep patterns during pregnancy while reducing anxiety and back pain. Doctors recorded lower levels of stress hormones in the urine of pregnant women who received regular massages. In addition, the women who received massage had fewer complications during labor and their infants had fewer postnatal complications.
- Stepping outside of the physical realm, partner massage continues to prove itself a valuable component of holistic medicine.
- From a social and emotional perspective, couples massage helps improve communication. Meredith Nelson, director of massage therapy at Pulling Down the Moon Integrative Care for Fertility in Chicago, says the first thing she tells her clients is, “Your partner doesn’t know what feels good to you–it’s your responsibility to let him or her know.” The acceleration of communication between a couple strengthens their relationship, which consequently benefits both partners’ emotional states.
- A Chinese study published in the March 2000 edition of the Journal of Clinical Nursing measured the relationship between women’s ratings of partners’ participation during labor and maternal outcomes. The researchers found that the pregnant mother’s perception of partner support was directly related to the dosage of pain-relieving drugs required and the length of labor. Therefore, the more supportive the partner, the easier the birth.
Being able to nurture a future mother and relieve some of the aches and pains of pregnancy is very helpful to an expectant mother. However, a pregnant woman’s partner doing the massage is even more valuable. Through massage, the relationship between the couple is strengthened by the partner’s supportive intent. Because it combines aspects of emotional, social and physical health, holistic-minded massage therapists who teach pregnancy partner massage dramatically help those bringing a new child into the world.