If you haven't heard of perineal massage before, don't worry, you're not alone. But according to our midwife team and women's health physiotherapist, this little-known technique can make a BIG DIFFERENCE when it comes to delivering your little bundle of joy.
The perineum is the area of skin and muscle between the vaginal opening and the anus. During childbirth, this area can be at risk of tearing or needing an episiotomy (a surgical cut made during delivery to widen the vaginal opening).
Now, onto perineal massage. The idea behind it is that by massaging the perineum during pregnancy, it can help to stretch and soften the tissue, making it less likely to tear during delivery. But, it's not just about avoiding tearing, perineal massage has other benefits too. It can also help to increase blood flow to the area and promote relaxation, which can make for a more comfortable labor.
But before you start massaging away, it's important to know when to start. Experts recommend starting perineal massage around 34-37 weeks pregnant and doing it for around 5-10 minutes a day. As for how often, it's best to do it 2-4 times a week.
If you're doing it on yourself, you'll want to make sure your nails are trimmed and your hands are clean. Apply a water-soluble lubricant or a natural unscented oil (such as sweet almond or olive oil to your fingers. Gently massage the area in a "U" shape, starting at the top of the vaginal opening and moving down to the anus.
If you're doing it on your pregnant partner, it's important to get their permission and make sure they're comfortable with the idea (although, trust us, there's bound to be way more embarassing scenarios you'll have to face very soon!). Again, use a water-soluble lubricant and follow the same "U" shape technique.
If you're more of a visual learner, be sure to have a look at the following video on YouTube that guides you through the steps:
Perineal massage isn't the only way to help prevent tearing during childbirth. Other things you can do include:
It's also important to remember that every woman's body is different and some may be more prone to tearing than others. But by taking steps to care for the perineum during pregnancy, and being mindful of positions and techniques during labor, you can help to reduce the risk of tearing.
So, there you have it - perineal massage! It may not be the most glamorous topic, but it's an important one that might make your childbirth journey and recovery process go much smoother!
Our team of midwives Chanelle, Annabelle, Denise, Marla and Catriona, as well as our women's health physiotherapist Carolyn Sultana are available for consultations on all things pregnancy and postpartum. Find them at the MyMama Hub in Naxxar, Malta for in person sessions or book a live online consultation. BOOK A ONE-TO-ONE SESSION HERE