- What is the perineum?
- What is perineal massage?
- What are the benefits of a prenatal perineal massage?
- When to start perineal massage and how often to do it?
- How to get started?
- How to do perineal massage?
- What are the contraindications to perineal massage?
- Tips to reduce perineal tearing
Around 85% of women who choose vaginal birth experience some kind of perineal trauma, usually due to a tear (1). But did you know that a perineal massage can prevent the chances of a tear and the pain that accompanies it?
Studies found that a perineal massage for labor is an effective technique to prevent a tear in the perineum. MomJunction tells you more about this massage, the techniques to follow and how it works.
What Is The Perineum?
The delicate area between the anus and the vagina is called the perineum. It is prone to tears during a vaginal delivery, as the baby applies pressure while moving through the birthing canal. The tears, if tiny, will heal soon but deep lacerations that need stitches will take time to heal, especially in the case of first-time moms.
What Is Perineal Massage?
During the delivery, the perineum tissues need to relax and open up to facilitate a smooth descent of the baby. A massage stretches the muscles to improve the flexibility of the perineum during childbirth, thus minimizing the chances of a tear.
What Are The Benefits of A Prenatal Perineal Massage?
Perineal massage aims to prevent any trauma to the perineum during a normal delivery. Here are a few advantages of getting a perineal massage before delivery (2):
It increases the flexibility of the perineum and makes childbirth less painful. The flexibility of the perineal tissues prevents the trauma of the muscles.
- It increases the suppleness of the perineum, which further aids in the easy recovery of any perineal tears during delivery.
- A massage in this area increases blood circulation in the region.
- It helps you focus better to open up the perineum during delivery.
- Reduces the need for an episiotomy.
- Decreases the need for medical interventions such as the use of forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery.
- Reduces post-delivery perineum pain.
- Helps soften the rigid perineum or previous scar tissues.
A study by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for East-West Medicine asserts that a perineum massage puts pressure on the points that can help ease constipation, thereby relieving hemorrhoids during pregnancy (3).
Try the perineal massage after talking to your doctor, and only if you are comfortable with it. Keep reading to know when and how you can try this massage.
When To Start Perineal Massage And How Often To Do It?
The ideal time to begin antenatal perineal massage is the 34th week of pregnancy (2). Based on your comfort levels and preferences, either you or your partner can perform the massage,
Ideally, perineal massage should be done just once or twice a week and not more, as frequent massages make it less effective (4). Also, it was found that perineal massage was more effective in the case of second-time moms than the first-time moms.
How To Get Started?
- Empty the bladder
- Trim the nails and clean the hands properly
Take warm baths or use warm compresses on the perineum for ten minutes before the massage.
Use lubricants such as vitamin E oil, almond oil, evening primrose oil (6), or coconut oil for massaging. Unscented organic oils such as olive, grape seed, sunflower oil, or a water-soluble lubricant like K-Y Jelly can also be used as lubricants. Do not use synthetic lubricants such as petroleum jelly or baby oils.
Home-made perineal massage oil:
You can prepare perineal massage oil with these ingredients:
Organic avocado oil (2 ounces), organic rosehip seed oil (1oz), organic pomegranate seed oil (1/2oz), and organic argan oil (1/2oz). Mix them all and shake well in a bottle. Use a drop or two when you massage.
- Keep a clean towel and a mirror (optional)
- Position yourself comfortably
Once you are ready, you can start massaging.
How To Do Perineal Massage?
First, position yourself comfortably.
Some comfortable positions to try:
- Sit comfortably on a bed or sofa, with the knees bent out. Use pillows to support your back.
- Rest your back in a bathtub and keep one leg up on the side of the tub. Alternate with the other leg when required.
- Stand with one leg up on the stool. Alternate with the other leg.
- Sit on a toilet with legs wide open.
- Sit in a place where you will be comfortable and feel secure and uninterrupted.
- Use a mirror to familiarize yourself with the vaginal opening.
- Insert both your thumbs, around 2in (5cm) into the vaginal opening. Place them on the back of your vaginal wall, with your forefingers resting on the buttocks.
- Using your thumbs and forefingers, gently press down towards the rectum and massage for about five minutes in an ‘upward and outward’ motion to make a ‘U’ stretching pattern. As you massage the area inside the vagina, you will feel a stretching/ tingling sensation of the outer skin.
- This ‘stretching’ feeling is similar to the feeling that you experience when the perineum opens up during delivery. Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds and then release (7). If your partner is helping you, then he must use his first and second fingers to start the massage.
- Try to relax the perineum during the massage.
- As you massage it, the perineum becomes elastic. Then, slowly increase the pressure towards the rectum. This will help you cope and relax with the pressure you will experience during labor when the head of the baby is about to come out.
- Massage as recommended for better results.
A tool named Epi-No was developed to protect the perineum from any trauma during childbirth. However, a systematic review of this device, in nulliparous women, claims no significant reduction in perineum tears or episiotomy rates (8).
What Are The Contraindications To Perineal Massage?
Perineal massage is not recommended (5):
- If the gestation age is less than 34 weeks.
- If you have a case of an incompetent cervix.
- In the case of placenta previa or if there is vaginal bleeding due to any other conditions during the second half of pregnancy.
- In the case of pre-eclampsia or concerns about the growth of the baby.
- In the case of thrush, vaginal herpes, or any other vaginal infections that may spread and worsen due to the massage.
If you feel pain at any point of massage, then stop doing it and continue it after some time. If pain persists, then inform your doctor.
In addition to the massage, you can also try other techniques to minimize the risk of a perineum tear during labor.
Tips To Reduce Perineal Tearing
The following tips help reduce the chances of perineal tear:
- Be in an upright position during labor.
- When you are in labor, start pushing as soon as you feel the contractions.
- Water birthing reduces the incidence of perineal tears (9).
- In the case of normal delivery at a hospital, apply warm compresses on the perineum.
- Do not oblige to labor induction if there is no medical emergency.
- Go for natural pain relief methods to avoid medical interventions.
As you approach your due date, you can practice perineal massage for a better birthing experience. If done correctly, you can feel your perineum stretch. Eventually, you could experience a smooth delivery with no trauma or tear in the perineum.
Did you try the perineal massage during pregnancy? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.