What is perineal massage?
The perineum is the area of skin between your vagina and bottom which thins and stretches when your baby is born. Sometimes women experience a tear at childbirth, and the perineum is one of the places where a tear can occur. Although most perineal tears are sutured back together and heal well, the aim is to avoid a tear at birth for all women. Tearing during childbirth is a topic most mamas don’t want to think about when preparing for a vaginal birth, but it is valuable to be aware of as you can learn ways to decrease your risk of tearing.
Perineal massage is an action that is supported by evidence, that can be performed in the antenatal period as a risk reduction measure, to reduce your risk of severe tears and decrease the likelihood of you needing stitches at birth. Massaging the perineum helps to gently stretch the skin and tissue around the vagina before giving birth which can have several benefits for you. The skin and tissue can stretch with more elasticity and muscles can be more flexible after regular perineal massage in the antenatal period.
Perineal massage should not be performed:
1. Before 34 weeks pregnant,
2. If you have a short cervix,
3. If you have had bleeding in the second half of your pregnancy,
4. If you have severe blood pressure in pregnancy,
5. If you have an active vaginal infection.
With anything regarding your health and wellbeing in pregnancy, always consult your healthcare provider for individual advice and clearance before undertaking it.
Perineal massage can be performed by you or your partner from 34-35 weeks pregnant after clearance by your healthcare provider. The general recommendation is to massage your perineum 1– 2 times per week for 5 minutes. In fact, performing perineal massage more than twice per week will not result in less perineal trauma; it is associated with decreased benefits and therefore not recommended. To reap the benefits of perineal massage, it is crucial to undertake the practice for at least four weeks prior to your birth. There are different techniques of perineal massage that should be explained to you by your OB or midwife. Perineal massage can be performed in a seated, lying or standing position - whatever feels comfortable for you at the time. Lovekins x Bumpnbub Perineum Massage Oil contains native Australian ingredients to help improve skin elasticity. Using an all-natural, dermatologically tested product is highly recommended to minimize discomfort while massaging the perineum. You may find the first few weeks of perineal massage uncomfortable, but this will improve as the tissue increases in elasticity and you gain increased tolerance to the stretch.
5 benefits of perineal massage
1. Decreased Perineal Trauma
Perineal massage does reduce your risk of having a severe tear at birth, especially for first time mothers. Research by Beckmann and Garret on antenatal perineal massage confirms that perineal massage does reduce the severity of perineal tears. The aim of perineal massage is to reduce the occurrence of perineal trauma that requires suturing for women who have not had a previous vaginal delivery. Slow and controlled birth of your baby’s head also helps to reduce the risk of tearing.
2. More Likely to Avoid an Episiotomy
Perineal massage works by also reducing your risk of an episiotomy (an incision made in the perineum) at birth. Mothers who massage their perineum during the last 4 weeks of pregnancy have fewer episiotomies than others. This is due to the increased elasticity of the perineum through massages and preparing it for stretching when it’s time to birth your baby.
3. Familiarise Yourself with the Stretching and Burning Sensation
When performing perineal massage, you can experience a burning and stretching sensation, especially if this is your first baby. This sensation can be similar to when your baby is being born. Being aware and familiar of this sensation prior to birth can help you relax more during the pushing stage and assist you to breathe through this stinging sensation instead of resisting it or tensing the area.
4. Less Perineal Pain Postpartum
There is evidence by Beckmann stating that women who practice antenatal perineal massage experience less pain at 3 months postpartum. Having less perineal pain means you will recover quicker and be more comfortable, so you can enjoy the time feeding and bonding with your baby. Less perineal pain postpartum can also reduce the likelihood of painful intercourse in the postpartum period.
5. Decreased Risk of Infection, Pain, and Bleeding
Not needing stitches after birth by having no tears or a minor tear, decreases the chance of you having an infection and excess pain in your perineum postpartum. If you have an intact perineum (no tears) after birth, this will also decrease your risk of heavy bleeding and needing stitches.
Read more about perineal massage here.
This article does not substitute for any medical advice. always
consult your healthcare provider before commencing perineal massage.