Experts Say Massage Won't Boost Fertility, But There Are Benefits
For proponents of alternative medicine, Mayan abdominal massage is touted as a healing technique that can relieve painful periods and regulate menstruation, cure premature ejaculation, correct a prolapsed or tipped uterus and even boost fertility.
The massage, which is said to have originated from the ancient Mayans, was adapted as the Arvigo Maya Massage by Rosita Arvigo, an herbalist and doctor of naprapathy. The treatment is also believed to promote blood flow, chi (life energy), nerve activity and more.
Mayan abdominal massage therapy focuses on—you guessed it—the abdomen. When a therapist massages your abdomen, they attempt to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs and reposition the uterus into an optimal placement.
However, most medical doctors will tell you this method isn't a fertility treatment. "I'm a medical doctor, so I'm probably biased, but I don't subscribe to it," said Anate Brauer, M.D., an OB-GYN and a Manhattan-based fertility specialist at Shady Grove Fertility.
Still, Brauer explained, there's no denying there's a mind-body connection, the belief that physical illness is determined from the interplay of psychological, biological and social factors.
And while no peer-reviewed research has been conducted on the benefits of Arvigo Maya Massage, anecdotal reports suggest it can relieve pain and reduce stress. Brauer agreed this technique can reduce muscle tension and improve relaxation, which in turn can reduce stress and anxiety. "But it can't cure fertility," she said.
The connection between stress and fertility
"Infertility problems can be attributed to scar tissue, adhesions, and obstructions in the fallopian tubes, accumulation of toxins, and, of course, stress and anxiety," states the Seattle Acupuncture website. These issues can all be addressed by fertility massage, according to Seattle Acupuncture.
However, while stress can affect fertility, massage alone can't cure infertility. "Stress can produce cortisol which can have effects on fertility," said Kecia Gaither, M.D., a double board-certified OB-GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine. "Massage relaxes the body, improves blood flow in the pelvic region. I believe it's a helpful adjunct for those women with an unidentified etiology for infertility, but not as a primary treatment."
While no peer-reviewed research has been conducted on the benefits of Arvigo Maya Massage, anecdotal reports suggest it can relieve pain and reduce stress.
Several studies have found a correlation between a woman's stress level and her chance of conceiving. But Brauer pointed out stress is just one factor that can affect conception. "Stressful people get pregnant all the time," she reminded. It may be coincidental, she added, if someone conceives after trying abdominal massage therapy.
According to both Brauer and Gaither, Mayan abdominal massage is safe for most women, and can promote relaxation and reduce stress. However, this treatment should not be used by women who are currently undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). "You don't want ovaries to be stimulated," Bauer warned.
Can Arvigo Maya Massage correct a uterine prolapse?
"Normally, your uterus tips forward at the cervix. A tilted uterus, also called a tipped uterus, tips backward at the cervix instead of forward," states the Mayo Clinic website.
One of the benefits of Mayan abdominal therapy, according to alternative medicine practitioners, is its ability to correct a prolapsed or tipped uterus, which can be painful. The theory is that by improving the positions of the pelvic and abdominal organs, fertility will be enhanced.
However, it's important to note a prolapsed uterus does not cause infertility. "Experts now know that the position of the uterus doesn't affect the ability of sperm to reach an egg," the Mayo Clinic website states. Brauer added this theory is similar to how people think physical therapy can open up blocked fallopian tubes, which she said is simply not true.
If you're having trouble conceiving, the best course of action is to speak to a medical professional who can evaluate and determine any factors that could be causing infertility. They can recommend a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs.