A soothing massage, a caring caress, a passionate kiss, even a simple foot rub can be blissful relief to a laboring mother. By stroking the receptor-rich skin and kneading the pressure receptors beneath the skin, you bombard the brain with pleasant stimuli, leaving less room for painful ones. You won’t really know where or how to ask your partner to rub or press till labor day is underway. Yet in the final months some practice rub downs to relieve backache or to help you relax during Braxton-Hicks contractions, and will help prepare you both for labor, when the right touch really counts. Tell your partner that a lot of prenatal practice will condition his hand muscles so they won’t tire so easily on the big day. Using pure plant oil or massage lotion, try different strokes in different areas of the body: firm caressing with the fingertips is preferred on the face and scalp; deep pressure and kneading is welcome for large muscles, such as the shoulders, thighs, buttocks, calves, and feet. Try counter pressure with the heel of your hand for easing the pain in lower back muscles. The last couple months are not only an opportunity to work out massage strokes that you like, it’s also a chance to weed out those you don’t. For example, stroking down in the direction of body hair growth is pleasant, whereas light stroking upward, against the hair shaft, may irritate a laboring woman. Help your partner learn the intensity and rhythm of the pressure you enjoy. When you massage him, show him what you like so he’ll learn by being on the receiving end.