Grab your partner and give him a rubdown. And then have him do the same for you.
Couples’ massage may or may not aid fertility, but it feels great and it’s lots of fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
Trying to start a family often brings on a catch-22: In addition to your usual day-to-day routine, you have to add ovulation-driven sex or reams of adoption paperwork and scary home visits, or weekend attempts to adapt your living space for the baby you hope you’ll have soon. All of this can add up to monster stress. . .which of course isn’t good for health or fertility. Add waiting for that elusive pink line in the bathroom or taking hormone shots, and you get almost certain madness. All in all, it’s a recipe for reduced fertility, struggling intimacy, and strain on your relationship.
Here’s a simple step for couples to make it all a little better: Massage each other. It’s basically free, feels good, and according to scientists delivers measurable physiological benefits. A recent review of research on massage therapy, published in the October 2005 issue of the International Journal of Neuroscience, showed that massage decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, both of which are instrumental in the experience of pleasure.
Massage can also be good for your relationship, especially if you’re in the midst of a fertility struggle, says Alice Domar, Ph.D., author of Conquering Infertility (Penguin, 2004) and director of the Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health at Boston IVF, in Massachusetts, where couples’ massage is part of the curriculum. “When you’re so focused on the sperm getting to the egg, sensuality and intimacy go right out the window,” she says. “Also, a lot of infertility treatments involve weight gain and mood swings, so the woman doesn’t feel sexy; and she doesn’t feel feminine because she’s not getting pregnant. The man may not be feeling too virile because he’s not knocking up his wife like all his friends are. So they’re not feeling great about themselves and may not feel very sexual. Anything that re-establishes the connection, that involves touch and induces relaxation, is wonderful.”
Massaging each other can also help couples stretch verbal communication muscles. Meredith Nelson, director of massage therapy at Pulling Down the Moon Integrative Care for Fertility in Chicago, says the first thing she tells her clients is, “Your partner doesn’t know what feels good to you––it’s your responsibility to let him or her know.” In Nelson’s classes, she emphasizes the importance of getting a comfortable flow of information going between the partners. Once they start seeing results, they become highly motivated to keep that communication rolling, she says.
There’s currently no scientific proof that massage itself will help you get pregnant. However, massage can help by alleviating stress. Among women undergoing fertility treatment, those who are most anxious and depressed take longer to get pregnant and are less likely to conceive, says Domar. “Plenty of stressed-out people get pregnant easily,” she says. “But there seem to be some people who are reproductively sensitive to stress. “ There’s also no discernible downside to massage, and a slew of confirmed and suspected upsides. So dig out some oil (grapeseed oil works well) and try your hands at this alternative “fertility treatment” tonight.