by Jane Mason R.M, BSc Hons. Company Director of Natural Birthing Company
Perineal massage can help make for a positive birth experience. Here’s all you need to know!
First a bit of biology, your perineum is the area between your vaginal opening and your anus. This is the area that stretches to accommodate the baby’s head when you are giving birth and also the area that tears or where an episiotomy (cut) is given if the tissues don’t stretch enough.
As a Midwife, I have yet to meet a woman who is isn’t concerned by the thought of an episiotomy or having tears; our perineums are precious to us!
But did you know that you can do something yourself to help prevent trauma to your perineum?
Perineal massage is the massaging of the perineum to enable it to stretch more easily when giving birth. Research shows that by massaging the perineum from 34 weeks of pregnancy, you can reduce the risk of tearing badly or needing an episiotomy in labour. Women also report feeling less perineal pain afterwards as well.
The perineum is a very sensitive area (even more so in pregnancy) and great caution should be taken when choosing what to use as lubrication when undertaking the massage. Products containing parabans, SLS’s, petro-chemicals or mineral oils are best avoided and any fragrance or nut oil can also cause irritations or sensitivity reactions.
Here’s how to do it
The best time to focus on massaging your perineum is after a bath or shower, so that you are already warm and relaxed. After washing your hands, find a comfortable position, maybe propped up on pillows on the bed. It’s important that you feel relaxed and safe in the knowledge that you won’t be disturbed. Apply your chosen lubrication onto your perineum and then insert your thumbs about 5cm into your vagina. Press your thumbs downwards against the back wall of the vagina so you feel a stretch of the muscles surrounding the vagina. Once you have the downward pressure, use your thumbs to sweep from side-to-side in a rhythmic “U” shaped movement. You can also massage the perineum between the thumbs on the inside and the index fingers on the outside skin. I liken the motion of your thumbs/fingers to that of rubbing flour & butter together to make pastry!
Points to note.
- The advice is to start perineal massage from 34 weeks of pregnancy or thereafter. Aim for each session to be 5-10mins at least 2-3 times a week.
- You should be massaging the perineal area enough to feel stretching, you may feel stinging or tingling but it shouldn’t feel painful; if it is you are doing it too vigorously.
- Try tightening and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles whilst doing your massage and you will see the difference it makes. This is why it’s important that you relax your pelvic floor when pushing your baby out rather than clenching the muscles tight!
- If you prefer you can get your partner to massage your perineum, especially if you are finding it difficult to reach. It would be easier for them to use a couple of fingers on the inside and their thumb on the outside instead.
- Do not undertake perineal massage if you think your waters may have broken or you have Herpes, Thrush or any other vaginal infection (seek medical advice if you suspect any of these conditions).
You can buy
Down Below Perineal Massage Oil and other gorgeous organic products from the Natural Birthing Company