Research shows that Perineal Massage from about 34 weeks can be beneficial as it reduces the incidence of tearing/bruising at birth. Considering that 85% of women experience some sort of perineal trauma this is worth giving a try.
The perineum is the skin between the vagina and anus. If you were to feel it now, it would be thick but during birth, this tissue unfolds and becomes as thin as the webbed part in between your forefinger and thumb! The perineum is attached to the pelvic floor, which supports the pelvic organs, bladder and bowels.
Stretching or trauma to the perineum can affect the support that the pelvic floor gives, increase risk of prolapse, affect control over bladder and bowels and can lead to discomfort/pain during sexual intercourse.
During birth, the perineum needs to unfold/stretch/relax to allow the baby to come through. Perineal massage is a way of preparing the perineum to do this more easily.
-Increase elasticity of the perineum
-Tears are less likely.
-Need for an episiotomy is less likely
-Helps you to focus on relaxing the perineum at the time of birth (as you’ve practised this antenatally)
-Bruising postnatally is less likely
-Can improve elasticity of previous scar tissue (ie, previous tear, episiotomy)
Things to know:
-Start from 34weeks
-Can be done solo or with a partner
-Doing it after a bath or shower can be better as blood vessels are more dilated, making perineum softer
- Use unscented organic oil: ie, olive grape seed or sunflower oil, KY Jelly.
- Don’t use Vaseline or synthetic oils such as baby oil
- Don’t do perineal massage if you have vaginal herpes, thrush or a vaginal infection.
For technique, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm2aqVOG6Tc
There are many videos out there which show how to do this massage…a lot better than me trying to explain it!
If you want another option, you can also try using the Epi-No. Research has shown that this can also be quite effective in relaxing the perineum and teaching you how to ‘breathe out baby’.