Perineal Massage for Tearing Prevention in Childbirth
Perineal massage...as in...perineum?
You got that right!
For those of you who may not know, your perineum is the piece of muscle & tissue that lies in between your vagina and anus.
Are you thinking "why, and how on earth do you massage that?!"?
It's alright, I was super confused too when I learned about it. But women have actually been massaging their perineums in preparation for childbirth for centuries!
Why Would You?
Think about your perineum for a second. If it's an appropriate time and place, maybe even feel it.
Being a collection of muscle and tissue, your perineum is fairly thick and tight. Especially if you do your Kegels! When you give birth, that is the part that stretches to allow your baby to come into the world. And in many cases, perineums tear.
Utilizing perineal massage regularly towards the end of pregnancy can reduce tissue damage during delivery! If you could choose, wouldn't you rather not tear that sensitive area and require stitches after birth? The massage option sounds quite a bit better.
(Doing so also reduces the risk of needing an episiotomy, so, bonus!)
You wouldn't skip stretching and warming up before running a big marathon right? Just as birth can be compared to marathon, your perineum needs to be prepped and flexible!
How To Massage Your Perineum
In Clemmie Hooper's wonderful book "How to Grow a Baby and Push it Out" she details the steps very nicely:
"The best time to start perineal massage is around 34 weeks, and I would recommend using an oil such as olive oil, sweet almond oil, or sunflower oil.
Start after you've had a bath or shower as you'll be more relaxed and the tissue will be softer and much more comfortable to touch.
Prop yourself up against some pillows. You can use a mirror if this helps.
Place your thumbs about 3cm inside your vagina.
Press your thumbs downward and sideways, gently, until you feel a tingling.
Hold this stretch for about two minutes.
Gently massage the lower part of the entrance to your vagina for about three minutes.
Continue this once or twice a day; after a week you will notice an increase in flexibility and stretchiness."
Here's a handy little diagram!
It's of course up to you if you'd like to try this exercise. No one should force you. Maybe it's just not your cup of tea, that's totally cool!
I think anything is worth trying a few times though, perhaps you'll get used to it. The potential benefit definitely outweighs the discomfort.
Because the vagina is such an incredible muscle that bounces back quickly, you need to do it often to see (and feel) a difference. 5 days a week is the recommended minimum.
It should be avoided though, if there's a risk of preterm labour, if you have a vaginal infection (always keep your hands clean), or if it causes contractions.
It's also noted that the women who benefit best from it are first time mums. If you've given birth before and had tearing, the scar tissue that may be present will be much harder to massage.
A great toll to use in conjunction with perineal massage is ‘core breath’, which we talk about over here.
Another way to prevent to tearing? Water birth!
Have any of you used perineal massage to prepare for delivery? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!