Why do perineal massage?
Your perineum is the patch of skin between your vagina and anus and it's this part that's most likely to tear when you give birth. Most women will suffer from some type of childbirth tearing (around 9 out of 10 women with their first baby and around 7 out of 10 with subsequent births). The risks of having tears to your birth canal and the perineum during the birth of your baby are mostly predestined by genetics and the position that your baby was in during birth, but there are some things that you can do to reduce the risk and help to prevent perineal tears. These include:
- Avoiding active pushing or 'Valsalva manoeuvre', where you hold your breath and push, during the pushing stage,
- Give birth in any position other than on your back (your left or right side are fine though).
Another method that can be used in pregnancy is perineal massage. There is a growing body of evidence that supports the use of perineal massage as a way of reducing the risk of tearing and also reducing the risk of the more severe types of tears.
How to do perineal massage
You would normally start perineal massage between weeks 34 to 36. You need to do it at least three times per week and for around three to five minutes at a time. Here’s how to do it:
- First of all, find a perineal massage oil, such as My Expert Midwife’s Peri Prep Your Bits
- Wash your hands
- Sit comfortably, bring your knees together and towards your chest and then open your knees like a book
- Using your thumbs, insert them into your vagina and then place your forefingers on the skin of your perineum. You now need to stretch this skin gently by moving your fingers from the middle of your vagina outwards, it shouldn't hurt so if you feel a burning sensation you've stretched too far
- Massage upwards as you gently stretch the skin and repeat for around three to five minutes and do this at least three times per week
Here is an excellent video, by Sophie Kirkham of Calm Hypnobirthing, demonstatrating perineal massage
As your pregnancy progresses you may find it helpful and also beneficial to ask your partner to help with this massage.