The perineum is the area of skin and muscle between the vaginal opening and the rectum. From approximately 34 weeks of pregnancy, practicing perineal massage for five minutes per day has been found to reduce the need for an episiotomy during birth, and to decrease the incidence of lacerations requiring sutures in women without prior vaginal birth.
What to do:
- Wash your hands and cut fingernails to prevent scratching.
- Sit in a comfortable position, where you can easily access your perineum, perhaps reclining in a bed using pillows or cushions to prop yourself up. Alternatively stand with one leg on a chair.
- Lubricate your fingers and perineum well with lube, or oil (cold pressed olive oil, sweet almond oil or a vegetable oil work best).
- If you are doing the massage yourself, use your thumbs. If you have a partner to help you, have them use their index fingers.
- Place your thumbs well inside the vagina and slide them in a U shape down the vaginal walls, across the perineum and up the other side. As you stretch this opening gently you'll notice a stinging, burning or tingling sensation. This is good! Massage for approximately 5 minutes.
- Finish the massage by rubbing the skin of the perineum between the thumb and forefinger (thumb on the inside, finger on the outside) for about one minute.
Each time you massage your perineum you'll find the tissues stretch and relax more easily. Increase the pressure just enough to keep up that stinging feeling - which is what it will feel like as baby's head crowns. This is a great time to practice softening and relaxing your pelvis and perineum so that these actions will come easily to you on labour day.
CAUTION! These tissues are sensitive so don't be too vigorous or you may end up with bruising and swelling. Ouch!
Hastings-Tolsma, M. (2014). Antenatal perineal massage decreases risk of perineal trauma during birth.Evidence-Based Nursing, 17(3), 77. doi:10.1136/eb-2013-101451
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