Perineal massage has been used for centuries to prepare pregnant women for childbirth. This kind of massage is done to relax the pelvic floor muscles and improve the elasticity of perineum so that it can stretch more easily during childbirth. The perineum is the area between the vaginal opening and the anus. The perineum can tear during childbirth either because the baby’s head is too large or the vagina is not elastic enough hence requiring an episiotomy (surgical cut).
Statistics show that about 85% of women experience some degree of perineal tear during vaginal birth. An episiotomy can lengthen recovery time, cause urinary incontinence and sexual difficulties. The best way to prepare yourself for childbirth and avoid tearing and episiotomies are to add perineal massage to your to-do list.
Essentially, perineal massage is the act of gently stretching and manipulating the perineum so that it can stretch more easily during vaginal delivery. Its goal is to ease labor pain and reduce the risk of tearing. Whether you’ve had a baby before or not, having a perineal massage during pregnancy can help to reduce discomfort after giving birth. Ideally, you should start having a perineal massage as you approach the 34th week of your pregnancy. However, you may need to seek the advice of your midwife or doctor as to when you should begin your perineal massage routine. You can massage your perineum by yourself or with the help of your partner. Typically, this massage should last for about 10 minutes per day.
Some of the benefits of perineal massage during pregnancy include:
Prepares the perineum for vaginal birth – Perineal massage improves circulation around the perineal area and improves the elasticity of the tissues. This helps to ease labor pain and reduces discomfort after childbirth. This kind of message is particularly helpful for women giving birth vaginally for the first time.
Reduces risk of tearing during vaginal birth – Tearing is less likely to occur if you perform a perineal massage from the 34th week of your pregnancy. Statistics indicate that around 2 in 10 women who perform perineal massage don’t experience tearing. Even if you experience some form of tearing, you may not need stitches. This means that perineal massage makes tearing less severe.
Helps women with scar tissue – Perineal massage is particularly helpful for women who have suffered a previous injury or those with rigid perineum.
Reduces postpartum pain – This type of massage lowers the risk of tearing and trauma to the perineal muscles. So it helps to reduce the pain caused by tearing and shortens recovery time. It also reduces the risk of developing complications associated with a weak pelvic floor, such as urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence.
How to do perineal massage during pregnancy
Start by washing your hands thoroughly and find a comfortable position where you can reach your perineum. Apply massage gel onto your fingers, and around the perineum, and the vaginal opening. Place your fingers about an inch inside your vagina and massage in U-shaped motion.
Beyond the physical benefits, perineal massage is an effective way to achieve mental preparedness for everything that’s about to come.