Perineal massage: does it make giving birth easier?

Perineal massage: does it make giving birth easier?

Your perineum is the area of skin between the entrance of to your vagina and anal passage. Research has shown that massaging this region in the last few weeks of pregnancy stretches the vaginal tissues, helping to reduce the risk of tearing during delivery. It also lessens the need for an assisted delivery using forceps or ventouse suction.

What are the benefits?

Perineal massageIt is estimated that over 85 per cent of women sustain some trauma to their perineum, but that the severity of tearing can be reduced by massaging the area before the birth. Massage will also familiarise you with the feeling of stretching and pressure that occurs, albeit more intensely, when your baby’s head is born

By massaging daily you’ll also encourage blood supply to your perineum, which helps with healing after the birth.

When should I begin?

Midwives advise that you start to massage the perineal area six weeks before your baby is due. It doesn’t take long – a four-minute session three or four times a week is ideal.

What do I do?

Either you or your partner can perform the massage. Go to the loo if necessary and always wash your hands before starting.

Find a comfortable position, either semi-sitting, squatting or putting one foot up on a chair. Lubricate your fingers with unscented oil or KY jelly before you begin.

  • If you are massaging yourself it is easiest to use your thumbs. Your partner can use his index fingers.
  • Place thumbs (or fingers) approximately five centimetres inside the lower part (near to your anus) of your vaginal opening.
  • Move your thumb/fingers back and forth using a rhythmical sweeping motion. This will gently stretch the tissue and muscles around the vagina.
  • Apply pressure downwards towards your bottom until you feel a tingling sensation. This helps to familiarise you with what it will feel like when your baby’s head crowns.
  • Massage and very gently pull the skin around the perineum.
  • You may feel tight for the first few weeks but by the end of the six-week period your perineal area will feel more pliable and stretchy.
  • If you have any concerns, talk to your midwife or GP.

Now tell us what worked for you…

Did you massage your perineum? Do you think it helped during labour?

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