A Pilot Study of Partner Chair Massage Effects on Perinatal Mood, Anxiety, and Pain

Robin B. Thomas, LMT, DrPH


Background: Women worldwide experience perinatal mood, anxiety, and pain contributing to pregnancy and birth challenges, maternal and infant bonding, and childhood development. Perinatal women seek massage therapy for relax-ation, pain management, and emotional support, but may encounter socioeconomic barriers. Prior studies demonstrated improved perinatal health by teaching partners of pregnant women a side-lying massage.
Purpose: This study examined health effects to perinatal mood, anxiety, and pain, by teaching partners of pregnant (PG) women a chair massage.

Setting: Participant’s homes in Tucson, Ari-zona, USA.

Participants: Twelve PG women with minor mood, anxiety, and pain: 67% white, 33% His-panic, college educated, married, aged 32 years (± 3.86 SD), 67% expecting a first child, annual incomes ? $50,000 (33%), > $50,000 (67%).
Research Design: A pre/postintervention pilot study in a single group for eight weeks.

Intervention: Twice weekly partner-delivered chair massage and its relation to perinatal mood, anxiety, and pain.

Main Outcome Measures: Pre/poststudy peri-natal massage effects were measured with the Edinburgh Depression Scale (mood), the STAI-AD (anxiety), and the VAS (pain). Weekly text messag-ing tracked dose and frequency, follow-up surveys measured sustainability, and birth outcomes were acquired by texting.

Results: Study retention was 86%, protocol compliance 94%, with couples averaging 10-min-ute, twice weekly chair massage over the eight-week study period. Paired-sample t tests indicated statistically significant improvements to perinatal mood and anxiety, Cohen’s d, a large strength of effect size (p = .012, d = 0.87; p = .004, d = 1.03). A trend was observed for reduced pain, with a medium strength of effect size (p = .071; d = 0.58). Follow-up surveys indicated most couples were sustaining at least weekly massage. Birth outcomes showed healthy infants with no complications, mean birth weight of 7.26 pounds, and mean ges-tation of 39 weeks.

Conclusion: This is the first evidence of partner chair massage as safe and effective complementary home management of perinatal mood, anxiety, and pain.


partner chair massage; perinatal mood; perinatal anxiety; perinatal pain

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3822/ijtmb.v12i2.437

International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
ISSN 1916-257X