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Perineal Massage: Benefits and Technique

Perineal Massage: Benefits and Technique

In the months leading up to your delivery, there are too many first-time experiences playing in your head. And one of the most crucial ones is childbirth itself. Thanks to movies, women have increasingly become scared to go through this process. More than labor, what seems to scare women is the cuts and pain caused due to both a vaginal delivery as well as C-section. And especially in the case of vaginal delivery, where the sensitive perineum will go through a tear, and thereby stitches would be needed. It sounds like a painful experience. But, fret not, there is one thing that can help: Perineal massage.

A perineal massage can prepare you for delivery, physically. If you plan to opt for natural birth and your gynaecologist is fine with it too, then this massage can do wonders for you. Let us find out how.

What is perineal massage?

The perineum is the area between your vaginal opening and the rectum. It experiences maximum tear during vaginal childbirth because the baby tries to push itself out from the birth canal. This perineum tear can take months to heal, depending on how your delivery went. A perineal massage is a manual way of stretching and softening the perineum tissue to enable a smoother delivery and quick post-delivery recovery.

As your perineum supports the bowels, bladder, and entire reproductive system, it is built to naturally stretch during childbirth. But this can be harder, especially if you have a rigid pelvic floor. A perineal massage can help increase blood circulation in the area and prepare it to stretch for delivery.

More stretch means lesser tear, which may also reduce the pain and discomfort.

Why should you do perineal massage?

A perineal massage is essential to get comfortable with yourself, physically and mentally. Before opening up to a team of experts in the delivery room, it is necessary to be okay with the process of childbirth.

This massage will also equip and make you more confident of your delivery. As per gynecologists, one should begin a perineal massage between 34-36 weeks, as you near your due date.

Benefits of perineal massage

A perineum tear has too many temporary though rather uncomfortable consequences. It can lead to possible infections, stitches of episiotomy during delivery, sexual inconvenience, and limited movement. A perineal massage can save you from a lot of this trouble:

  1. You will be better prepared for childbirth as a perineal massage can help you understand what you might feel while delivery. Massaging the perineal area regularly will also aid in relaxing it before labor begins.
  2. If you have a rigid or stiff perineum, then this massage can help loosen it up a bit.
  3. As you will be massaging the perineal area regularly, blood circulation will increase. This means that your tissues will be strengthened to handle childbirth.
  4. As mentioned above, a perineal massage can mean reduced chances of a perineum tear.

A perineal massage can also reduce the chances of getting vaginal stitches by approximately 10%, while reducing the need for episiotomy by approximately 15%. Though this percentage is a bit on the lower side, anything should be better than nothing at this point.

Techniques of doing a perineal massage

To do a perineal massage, you will require natural oil such as sunflower, olive, or grapeseed, or an unscented personal lubricant. Experts say if women are comfortable with their vaginal lubrication that is fine too. Remember to not use artificial oils or lubricants as this is the most sensitive area of your body and we do not want any unruly rashes or infections right before childbirth.

A perineal massage should be done for 5-8 minutes maximum. You will be massaging a very particular area and this should not be done overenthusiastically. It can then lead to blood circulation in areas you do not require and result in rashes. So, keep it slow and gentle.

Steps

  1. Wash your pelvic floor properly. You can do this while taking a bath as well, as long as the soap doesn’t go inside your vagina. Or you can thoroughly clean your hands and the pelvic region before massaging.
  2. Next, you need to sit in a comfortable position. This can be lying on the bed with legs open, or sitting in an upright position with legs open. You need to be able to reach your perineum.
  3. Take any natural oil, like sunflower or olive, and apply it on both your thumbs. Now gently place your thumbs inside your vaginal walls, only till the first knuckle. You can use a mirror if you’re unsure about how to do this. Apply a little pressure using your thumbs on the vaginal walls towards the anus and back. Be super gentle while doing this.
  4. Once you keep stretching the area from your vaginal walls to the anus, you might feel a slight burn or a tingling sensation. This is normal. Continue with this movement and make a U-shape motion by moving your thumbs upward and inward.
  5. Your vaginal tissues will stretch over a span of time. It is important to be physically and mentally relaxed during this massage. Once you become used to the massage, your body will automatically become comfortable with this.

Things to keep in mind

  1. If you are not comfortable doing this alone, your partner can do it for you. However, make sure they thoroughly clean their hands before doing it. Ask them to use their index fingers and not the thumbs for the perineal massage.
  2. After a few weeks of regular perineal massage, you will feel that the vaginal tissue might have become looser than before and stretches well. This is a good sign and means that the massage is working. If done regularly, your vaginal skin will become softer and its elasticity will increase too.
  3. If you have any kind of infection or genital herpes, then refrain from doing this massage. Herpes could spread to the rest of the tract.

There are chances that the perineal massage may not work for some mothers-to-be. Nevertheless, it is a harmless massage that only offers benefits.

Learn more about Preparing for Birth here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

What is perineal massage and how is it done? https://www.babycentre.co.uk/x1955/what-is-perineal-massage-and-how-is-it-done/Accessed on March 24, 2020

Perineal Massage During Pregnancy/https://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/perineal-massage-pregnancy/Accessed on March 24, 2020

What is the evidence for perineal massage during pregnancy to prevent tearing, https://www.lamaze.org/Connecting-the-Dots/what-is-the-evidence-for-perineal-massage-during-pregnancy-to-prevent-tearing, Accessed June 17, 2021

Perineal techniques during the second stage of labour for reducing perineal trauma, https://www.cochrane.org/CD006672/PREG_perineal-techniques-during-second-stage-labour-reducing-perineal-trauma, Accessed June 17, 2021

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Jun 17
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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