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Perineal Care: Massaging The Perineum In Preparation For Birth

Perineal Care: Massaging The Perineum In Preparation For Birth

If you’re wondering how your baby going to get out of there, it’s time to help your body prepare for the experience with perineal massages.

It’s no spa treatment, but perineal massage in pregnancy can really help you when it comes to giving birth and also helps avoid complications and tears.

You’ve probably heard a whole load of conflicting thoughts on the topic of perineal massages – it isn’t for everyone – and involves “kneeding” the delicate area between your vagina and anus which isn’t exactly going to land in your list of top 10 things to do. However, just like with any pre-birth preparation, there is a good reason why medical experts advise that perineal massages are a good idea in the latter stage of labour.

What is the perineum?

Don’t worry if you have no idea where your perineum is – it’s one of those areas of your body that you are unlikely to introduce yourself to until you’re pregnant. 

‘Your perineum area is made up of soft, fleshy tissues,’ explains Annabel Hargrave, Yogabirth teacher. ‘These tissues surround the vaginal opening and the area between the vagina and rectum.’

Why massage the perineum?

You should start to massage the area during the last four to six weeks of pregnancy. It will help stretch you and lessen the chance of tearing during birth. Getting used to these sensations of pressure and stretching will help you relax when you’re in labour.

‘It can reduce trauma to the perineum in the second stage of labour and reduce the risk of tearing or an episiotomy,’ explains Annabel. Massaging the perineum also gets you in touch with the area where the baby will come out.

Getting ready

Make sure you’ve gone to the loo so your bladder is empty and have a warm bath to relax yourself and the perineal area.

‘First of all, wash your hands well,’ says Annabel. ‘Have a plain organic perineum massage oil on hand, to help you out.’

Massaging the perineum yourself

The first few times you may want to use a mirror to help you out as it can be tricky locating the right spot.

‘Find a comfortable position – lying on your side and taking your hand behind to reach your perineum is one option or try a half squat position or standing with a foot up on the side of the bath,’ says Annabel.

‘Using some oil on your index and middle fingers, insert them in the rear of your vagina and work gently from side to side. Apply some pressure to stretch the area a little.’ The area will become a little numb but continue massaging for three to four minutes.

Let your partner massage your perineum

If you don’t mind, it can be easier for your partner to massage the area for you – but he will need to go places he (perhaps) hasn’t been before.

‘After washing his hands, he should massage some lubricant into the area and insert either thumbs or index fingers shallowly into your vagina while gently pressing down and to the sides,’ says Annabel. ‘The massage action can be done from side to side.’

Whether you or your partner is doing the massage, avoid the urethral area because of potential infection.

The difference it will make

The first few times you do the massage it will feel tight but – just like with any form or stretching – you should start to notice an increase in flexibility after about a week.

‘As the perineum becomes more elastic more fingers can be inserted,’ advises Annabel. 

Try practicing your relaxation and breathing techniques at the same time to help your labour go as smoothly – and painlessly – as possible. 

 
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