Midwife: “Okay, I’m going to give you a fundal massage now.”
Oooh a massage right after delivering your baby? Sounds absolutely divine, right?!
The word “massage” being paired with the word “fundal” is about as misleading as “FREE!!! (with $6000 purchase).
(Hey, before you read on please remember that I am not a medical healthcare professional. I obtain this knowledge from my personal experiences and research that I do. If you have questions or concerns please refer to your healthcare provider. This is meant to be as an awareness and starting point of education.)
What is a fundal massage?
Other than a super uncomfortable assault on your poor tummy immediately after birthing your placenta, a fundal massage is a firm pressing and “massaging” of your fundus (the top of your uterus) to get rid of blood, clots, and everything else that needs to not be in your body after birth. If this is not done your chance of postpartum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding after birth) is increased.
Your midwife or doctor will warn you that they’re going to give you a fundal massage. They’ll basically knead your belly right above the pubic bone while having fingers in your vagina to compress the uterine arteries. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily a gentle process. In order to make sure that all the excess bits and bobs are expelled from your body your healthcare professional will need to use a bit of force.
While postpartum hemorrhaging is not very common the preventative measure that is fundal massage helps to reduce the risk of it happening. Basically, if your uterus doesn’t contract on its own you may end up hemorrhaging, especially if you’ve delivered a large baby, had multiple babies, had an infection, had a history of hemorrhaging, amongst other variables. The fundal massage technique is used to simulate the contracting uterus to help your body.
It’s not pleasant, but it is important.
What do you do during a fundal massage?
Getting a fundal massage doesn’t really require much of you. You’ll likely be able to hold your baby but you may find it more comfortable to pass baby to someone else so you can put your mind in a happy place. You’ll not only be feeling the pressure of the fundal massage on your body, but you’ll also be feeling the gushing from your vagina.
Don’t worry about that last part. I promise you that your midwife or doctor has made the necessary arrangements with pads and clean up items so that your bed won’t be saturated. In fact, when all is said and done there won’t be any evidence that it even happened.
Do I have to have a fundal massage?
Postpartum hemorrhage is when a person loses 500ml to 1 liter of blood in the first 24 hours after birth. That’s a lot of blood. In fact, that’s a life-threatening amount of blood to lose. That level of blood loss can cause a dramatic drop in your heart rate leading to shock and potentially death.
1-5% of people who give birth will experience a postpartum hemorrhage. It usually happens shortly after delivery but it can happen up to two weeks postpartum.
Some common symptoms of postpartum hemorrhaging are:
-Decreased blood pressure
-Increased heart rate
However, some of the other symptoms of postpartum hemorrhage can resemble other health concerns. If something doesn’t feel right make sure to make an appointment with your healthcare professional immediately or seek immediate medical assistance. Tune into your body. You’re going to be experiencing a lot of new and different sensations, especially if this is your first birth, but listen to your body and be in tune when something doesn’t feel right. Always err on the side of caution if you are concerned-you’re taking care of yourself and most healthcare professionals are happy to investigate further into your concerns.
None of the above sounds terribly appealing, does it? Fundal massage is the first defense towards having to deal with this both immediately after birth or in the near future. This is not something you want to have to deal with once you’ve brought baby home.
While it may not be the most glamorous massage you’ve ever gotten it’s nothing in comparison to what you just experienced while delivering your baby. Besides, you’ll be able to use your fundal massage as leverage for quite some time when you explain to your partner that you need a real, pleasant massage to negate the trauma that you endured and to make sure that your perception of what a “massage” is isn’t forever skewed!