What is a perineal massage?
A perineal massage involves the rubbing, stretching, and application of light pressure on the perineum using your fingers in preparation for labour. The perineum is the area of tissue found at the posterior of your vagina, between your vagina and your anus. The massage aids your body in preparation for stretching and pushing out your baby during labour.
What are the benefits?
The reason why perineal massages are highly recommended for pregnant women planning to have a vaginal birth is that it has been shown to reduce the risk of tearing and bruising of your vagina during labour. By massaging the tissue in preparation for labour, it will expand more easily during labour and lessen the chance of vaginal tearing. This, in turn, will reduce the possibility of needing stitches. It is also thought that massages help to prepare you mentally for labour by giving you the chance to experience some of the sensations you will feel during birth.
How to perform a perineal massage?
It’s recommended to begin perineal massages at around 35/36 weeks of pregnancy. Performing it once a day or every two days is best for a maximum of five minutes. Start by getting a suitable lubricant to use for the message. Over-the-counter lubricant or natural oils such as sunflower or olive oil are ideal for this. Make sure you wash your hands with a mild soap before beginning the massage to avoid introducing any bacteria to the vaginal area. Then lay on a comfortable surface such as a couch or bed. If you are unable to reach your vagina or this is uncomfortable for you, a partner could perform the massage. It might help to play some music or light some scented candles as it’s important to stay relaxed during the massage.
Apply a small dollop of lubricant to your fingers. Place one or two fingers on the back of your vagina bout 1 and a half inches inside. Then apply some pressure to the tissue and hold this stretched position for a minute or two. You should feel a stretching sensation and may even feel a little burning. This is normal. Then begin to move your finger in a u-shaped motion within your vagina back and forth. Continue to apply pressure while you do this to feel a stretch. Stop the massage at the five-minute mark.
If you feel any sharp or serious pain during the massage, let your healthcare provider know and consider seeking some more guidance in how to perform this massage, to make sure you get all of the benefits it can bring!