When you're trying to conceive (TTC), it's understandable if you'll try just about anything to achieve a safe, healthy pregnancy. And while plenty of tips you'll see on the internet might feel a bit, well, wacky (no shame, no judgment, but keeping your legs in the air after sex probably won't help you get pregnant), doctors and health experts alike will always recommend taking time to care for yourself and de-stress any way you can. One ancient form of self-care is no doubt one of the most soothing, and it could just be the ticket to boosting your odds of pregnancy: womb massage.
Not sure what that is? Womb massage isn't your average spa treatment, as Joanna Yañez, the founder of Rebirth Massage in San Diego, explains to Scary Mommy. In fact, it's believed to help with a number of reproductive woes — and that's without mentioning the many benefits of massage on your overall health and well-being. Also known as Mayan abdominal massage, womb massage "is a more therapeutic form of bodywork that focuses on revitalizing the internal organs, like the uterus, via deep abdominal massage," says Yañez. It's rooted in "centuries-old, Mexican indigenous medicine called sobada de matriz, as well as indigenous medicine from around the world."
Its popularity has become mainstream, and Yañez notes it's "not only exclusive to the Mayan culture. This form of preventative medicine is still practiced by many cultures around the world as a way to ease painful periods, increase fertility, position a baby in utero, heal postpartum, and clear energy from the womb."
When visiting a practitioner who specializes in womb massage (a must, adds Karen Stoner, LMT, a certified prenatal massage therapist at A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy in State College, PA), your therapist will likely work with you to create a specialized treatment plan, which might include herbal supplements and other treatments, like acupuncture, to help boost your odds of conception.
What actually is womb massage, though?
Given that most traditional massages avoid your abdominal area, it might feel unusual at first to have a therapist focus on these parts of your body, but it's all part of the process. Most massage techniques "deal with the manipulation of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia, but womb massage goes further and can manipulate the organs themselves," explains Stoner.
Though it's a deep technique, Stoner notes that it shouldn't cause pain when done properly. "If there are adhesions (scar tissue that develops in the muscles) or anything that needs to be broken up, the massage may feel uncomfortable when certain spots are touched, but one should never feel pain. The therapist can also adjust the amount of pressure used to make sure that the person receiving the massage isn't uncomfortable," she explains.
How does it help boost fertility?
Just like other massage techniques, womb massage has several benefits, explains Yañez. "Womb massage can help improve fertility by increasing oxygen and nutrient-rich blood in the uterus and ovaries. It can also bring the uterus to its optimal position, 'un-kink' fallopian tubes, and increase detoxifying lymphatic flow. It helps increase circulation to the reproductive organs, revitalizing them and preparing them for pregnancy. I have even had clients report that one womb massage fixed their irregular menstrual cycles," she adds.
Stoner agrees, noting that plenty of people seek out womb massage when they're having difficulty conceiving. "I have referred clients to receive this type of massage when they are diagnosed with a 'tilted uterus' or a 'tilted cervix,'" she says. Womb massage also "helps soften the cervix, thicken the endometrial lining, balance the hormones, and address any issues that may be problematic in the reproductive system. This sounds ridiculous, but similar to proper plumbing in a house, water won't flow correctly if the pipes are in the wrong place or a hose is kinked. Same goes for the reproductive system — everything that needs to happen internally to make a baby won't connect and end up in the right place if everything isn't in the right place."
Womb massage is also helpful for those with reproductive health conditions like endometriosis, as it helps balance hormones and relieve pain, says Stoner. It is also therapeutic for those who have experienced prior sexual or birth trauma, adds Yañez: "Your body carries [and holds onto] emotion, stress, and tension. You can even form knots in your abdomen — just like when you get knots in your back. The uterus can also store memory and trauma. Having the womb massaged can help release these tensions and muscle memories, allowing you to connect with your womb. We often teach a self-massage to help clients with home self-care."
It's also helpful for those in their second and third trimesters, as well as postpartum. Says Yañez, "Modifications can be made to help optimize the baby's position in utero and prepare the body for birth. Womb massage helps postpartum by speeding recovery, improving digestion, decreasing bloating, and helping bring the uterus down to its pre-pregnancy position."
How can you maximize massage benefits?
For those who are TTC, Stoner recommends receiving a womb massage before ovulation but after your period for optimal results. "Because this form of massage deals with much more sensitive areas than a 'regular' massage, it should only be done by a massage therapist or trained medical professional who is fully certified and trained specifically in womb massage. It can be done anywhere a regular massage is done — it requires no major special equipment," she says.
Noting that her clients often notice a difference after just one massage, Yañez adds, "Generally speaking, it can be done once or up to three times a month to fully decongest the pelvic bowl."
And let's be real: No matter where you are on your pregnancy or parenthood journey, you absolutely deserve some time to connect with your body and spirit, and where better to do that than on a massage table? This is your sign to give it a try.