The Fundal Massage – what pregnant moms need to know!
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You’ve heard the term before, but what in the world is a fundal massage and why is it important to you?
As a mama who’s given birth twice AND spends a lot of time learning about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum — I’m going to share ALL about the fundal massage (you may hear it called uterine massage), why it’s used, and the important facts you should know about!
What the heck is a fundal massage?
Oh the dreaded fundal massage…
A fundal massage, also termed uterine massage, is far from a relaxing day at the spa kind of massage.
It is a massage typically done by your nurse, midwife or OB physician — where they massage above the fundus (on your lower abdomen) with the other hand placed inside the vagina supporting the uterus to stimulate uterine contractions & help prevent postpartum hemorrhage.
According to the World Health Organization, “PPH [postpartum hemorrhage] is the primary cause of nearly one-fifth of all maternal deaths globally. Most of these deaths occur during the first 24 hours after birth“.
So, in an effort to reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhage, a fundal massage is performed.
How does a fundal/uterine massage reduce postpartum hemorrhage?
The idea behind reducing hemorrhage after having a baby is that if your uterus isn’t already contracting on it’s own (which it should be), the manual stimulation helps to get rid of any excess blood clots or backed up fluids from birth while transitioning your body into a more recovery like state.
However, one study showed that fundal massages may NOT be as beneficial as many have thought, “Uterine massage was less effective than oxytocin for reducing blood loss after delivery. When oxytocin was used, there was no additional benefit from uterine massage.“
What does a fundal massage (or uterine massage) feel like?
Well, let me just say, there is no FUN in a fundal massage!
After giving birth, you’ll be on cloud 9 with the fact that you literally just gave birth to a human and also because you finally get to hold that tiny human in your arms!
If you’re getting the fundal massage during those mama baby skin to skin snuggles, you may not feel as much discomfort.
However, if you are paying attention to everything going on around you, you will likely feel the discomfort.
It basically feels like a painfully forced contraction…I mean, they’re literally squeezing your uterus.
The good news is, some women only need it right after birth, some get it every few hours, and others may have the pleasure of being taught to do it on their own.
This is a conversation to be had with your care provider to help figure out how they prefer to handle fundal massages after birth.
In the video below, Lamaze Birth Educator & Dona Doula Bridget Teyler discusses what happens after birth (why and how the placenta is delivered, why it’s important your uterus contracts, postpartum hemorrhaging, and more!).
How else can Postpartum Hemorrhage be prevented?
Well, it’s important to know if you’re dealing with any possible risk factors first. Risk factors to cause postpartum hemorrhage include:
- Placenta previa (when the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth).
- Having a C-section.
- Have long or prolonged labor.
- Pregnancy-related infections (such as chorioamnionitis).
- Preeclampsia (a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and potential organ damage/dysfunction).
Now that we know the risk factors, we can go over some of the other ways used to try and prevent postpartum hemorrhage.
One is with a medicine called Pitocin. Pitocin is the synthetic form of our body’s natural Oxytocin. The way Pitocin is thought to help is by (did you guess it yet?) — stimulating uterine contractions!
Another way is a more natural approach, through breastfeeding! Breastfeeding naturally stimulates Oxytocin which then (guess again) — stimulates uterine contractions!
There’s A TON of other medications we could get into, but the idea behind them stimulating uterine contractions is the same.
That being said, you should ALWAYS have a chat with your doctor or medical team to figure out what their protocol is after birth and to prevent postpartum hemorrhage.
Fundal Massage — The Recap
A fundal massage is used to help prevent postpartum hemorrhage after birth. It is done by massaging the top of the uterus externally while supporting the uterus internally.
The fundal massage does not feel pleasant and can in fact be very uncomfortable.
There are risk factors that can increase your risk of postpartum hemorrhaging (listed above). Be aware of them and discuss any concerns with your physician.
Yes, there are other medications you can try to use to stimulate uterine contractions after birth, it’s good to be familiar with the common ones in the event your doctor recommend you need it.
Lastly, you can also learn more about fundal massages and other birth-related procedures by taking a reputable birth class! I personally took all my birth classes online (yup, in my PJ’s learning about birth) and highly recommend checking out “Birth It Up” created by Liesel Teen.
Liesel is a labor and delivery nurse with lots of first hand experience on top of being a mama of 2, so she definitely knows a wealth of knowledge about birth!
Other PREGNANCY posts you’ll find helpful: