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Massage Benefits Depressed Pregnant Women

A study "Massage therapy effects on depressed pregnant women" was recently conducted by the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Florida (1). Field et al found that massage can ease anxiety and depression in depressed pregnant women and there are indications that their newborns may benefit as well!

84 diagnosed depressed pregnant women were randomly assigned to either a massage group, a muscle-relaxation group or a control group with standard care. A group of non-depressed pregnant women were used for a comparison group.

Women in the massage group received two 20 minute massages per week for around 16 weeks. The massage was a set routine provided by their partners. The muscle relaxation group were taught a 20 minutes muscle relaxation routine which was carried out twice a week for the same time. Various measurements were made before and after sessions at various times during the pregnancy. Fetal activity was also monitored at 18-24 weeks and again at 36 weeks. Finally, the Obstertics Complications Scale was used to assess complications that arose during the pregnancy,delivery and neonatal period.

Results of the study indicated that the massage group showed a greater decrease in depression on the last day of the study as compard to the first, whilst the other groups showed no significant changes. There was a greater improvement in mood and decreased anxiety among women in the massage group immediately after the massage on both the first and last days of the study. They also found that there was decreased reporting of leg and back pain.

Other results indicated a larger decrease in fetal activity in the massage group compared to the other groups as well as fewer premature births.

The researchers concluded that:
"Overall the findings suggest that massage therapy is effective for reducing pregnant women's stress hormones, stressful mood states, leg and back pain and for lessening obstetric and post-natal complications, hence improving noenatal outcomes".

(1) T. Field, M. A. Diego, M. Hernandez-Reif, S. Schanberg and C. Kuhn. "Massage therapy effects on depressed pregnant women". Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, June 2004. Vol 25, No 2, pp 115-122.

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