Fertility massage is a complementary therapy that you may use alone or in tandem with other fertility treatments. While some mainstream facilities include fertility massage in their offerings, it definitely falls into the alternative category. Evidence is more anecdotal than scientific. In other words, there is no proof that massage improves fertility.
The theory behind fertility massage
Massage in general may relieve the stress of trying to conceive. But fertility-specific massage focuses mainly on kneading the abdominal area to change the position of the uterus. It also aims to increase blood flow to the uterus, thereby thickening the endometrial lining in preparation for an embryo.
Mayan abdominal massage, which originated in Central America, is an especially popular form of fertility massage. Rosita Arvigo, a doctor of naprapathic medicine, developed a modern method of Mayan techniques. Naprapathy is a complementary medicine similar to chiropractic. Proponents claim Arvigo’s technique can correct a fallen, tilted or prolapsed uterus, restoring the body’s natural balance and optimal hormone function.
Who gets fertility massages
Women trying to get pregnant are candidates for fertility massage. It’s also used to treat women with endometriosis. In addition to possibly realigning the uterus, practitioners claim it can:
- Break up pelvic adhesions
- Decrease inflammation
- Improve circulation to the reproductive organs
- Eliminate old blood in endometrial tissues
- Ease digestive disorders
While anybody can get a massage, those who are wealthier, older and more educated are likeliest to try complementary and alternative methods to promote fertility, according to an article published in a 2010 issue of Fertility & Sterility. College graduates were 62 percent more likely to use complementary medicine. For every five years of a woman’s age, odds increased 28 percent that she’d turn to an alternative treatment such as acupuncture, herbs or fertility massage.
Timing of massage
One of the reasons it’s difficult to gauge the results of fertility massage is its lack of consistent standards. Some practitioners suggest fertility massage just after your period ends, some during, before or just after ovulation. They agree that you shouldn’t get fertility massage during your period. Some women use fertility massage in the weeks leading up to in-vitro fertilization to increase blood flow and the mobility of ligaments around the uterus.
Don’t get an abdominal massage after an embryo transfer or fertility injections.
Practitioners also differ on recommended number of sessions. They may advise you to start fertility massage several months before trying to conceive, then continue sessions once or twice monthly until you get pregnant. Some recommend fewer massages.
Rosita Arvigo developed her trademarked Arvigo Technique of Maya Abdominal Therapy after a 12-year apprenticeship to a shaman named Don Elijio Panti. Panti lived in a remote village in Belize. If you consult someone trained in her holistic method, your massage will likely be accompanied by:
- Herbal supplements
- Nutrition advice
- Spiritual and emotional healing techniques
According to Arvigo, 90 percent of women have a misaligned uterus at some point in their lives. Causes include:
- High impact activities, such as running and aerobics
- Weakened pelvic ligaments
- Aging-induced gravity
- Pelvic surgeries
The Arvigo technique claims a conception rate of about 30 percent for women who undergo these treatments. However, this has not been verified by outside studies.
What to expect during your massage
As noted before, fertility massage is non-standardized, and so varies greatly between practitioners. You can expect the first session to be longer than subsequent meetings. The practitioner might want to keep you for 90 minutes to two hours so he or she can get to know you and understand the specifics of your case. Later sessions may run 60 to 90 minutes.
Massage and related techniques you might encounter during your session include:
- Acupressure, including Shiatsu
- Castor oil packs placed on your abdomen
- Reflexology, a Chinese technique using pressure points on your feet
- Cranial sacral work, which gently relaxes connective tissue
- Jaw release
- Aromatherapy with essential oils
- Ayurvedic techniques from ancient Indian medicine
The types of methods used will dictate how much you need to disrobe. Your practitioner might also give you lifestyle or nutrition advice.
If you’re getting a Maya abdominal massage, expect deep, slow, penetrating pressure designed to incite spasms in your deep muscle tissue. This may be uncomfortable.
Does fertility massage work?
Despite anecdotal stories and claims of practitioners, little or no scientific evidence shows a correlation between fertility massage and a higher rate of pregnancy. However, not many studies of fertility massage have been done. Some studies have shown that massage in general can reduce stress, which could be a good thing for conceiving, or even being relaxed enough to try.
Cost of fertility massage
Cost varies by provider and region. Expect to pay up to $160 for your initial consultation, and between $95 and $135 on the following visits. While some insurance plans cover massage for certain conditions, your plan is less likely to cover fertility massage than something deemed more medically necessary.
Updated August 2014