Pregnancy massage may reduce the risk of premature births

Pregnancy massage long has been known to help expectant mothers feel better, and a new study shows it may well provide an even more important benefit – reducing the risk of premature births.

According to the study's findings, body massage for pregnant women by their "significant others" led to reduced levels of stress hormones in the mother and thereby increased the likelihood of a successful full-term pregnancy. The Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, L.L.C., the National Institute of Mental Health and the March of Dimes supported the study.

The research found that in addition to relaxing the mother, massage might bring into better balance stress hormones including cortisol and norepinephrine. Elevated stress hormones can lead to complications during pregnancy including low birth weight and even miscarriage.

The study, conducted by the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine and Duke University Medical School's Department of Pharmacology, focused on massage during the second trimester of pregnancy. While other studies have reported beneficial findings in pregnancy massage by trained therapists, the new study keyed on massage by the partner in the relationship, providing for a cost-effective, at-home way for couples to improve the outcome of pregnancy for mother and baby.

Massage by their partners helps women "feel more comfortable and less stressed during pregnancy and therefore they can expect a better outcome," said Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of Touch Research Institutes, co-author of the study and advisor to the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, L.L.C.

"Our core mission at the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, L.L.C., is to improve the health and well-being of mothers and babies. When something as simple as massage during pregnancy can do that, it makes the research invaluable and directly beneficial," said Owen Rankin, president of the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, L.L.C.

In addition to playing a positive role in reducing a pregnant woman's stress, massage also alleviates aches, pains and swelling for the mother, improves her sleep and eases depression, the study reported.

And, added Field, massage by partners produces yet another benefit: "It gives them a better bond. It's good for their relationship."

For more information and educational materials on touch therapy and maternal and infant care, please visit www.jjpi.com.

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