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Contributed by: Suzanne Munson
Perineal massage is an ancient practice of daily massage that aims to stretch and relax the birth canal before delivery, which has been shown to decrease the incidence of tearing of perineal tissues, and the need for episiotomy, during delivery, as well as reduce pain during sex following childbirth. While you won’t see perineal massage included on most “Pregnancy To-Do Lists”, spending 5 minutes each day during the last several weeks of pregnancy doing perineal massage could prove to be time very well spent.
If you aren’t yet familiar with the benefits of perineal massage, you aren’t alone. In fact, a recent consumer survey conducted by Fairhaven Health, revealed that a majority of women surveyed (54%) were unaware that perineal massage could help prevent tearing during delivery. Fairhaven has introduced BabyIt Perineal Massage and PostPartum Comfort Gel, the first isotonic, paraben-free massage gel designed specifically for perineal massage. We hope to spread awareness about the benefits of perineal massage, and to educate women about how to incorporate this simple, albeit slightly awkward, practice into their daily routine.
But, wait! What is a perineum?
Your perineum includes the area at the back of your vagina and vulva and goes to your anus and rectum, and includes the back portion of the birth canal. It is important to understand that without a strong pelvic floor, we would not be able to walk upright, and we would pee every time we cough or sneeze. These tissues need to be intact and strong, but they also need to be flexible enough to stretch during childbirth to allow the baby to move through the birth canal.
Unfortunately, the perineal tissues of many women lack flexibility and they experience perineal trauma during childbirth.
Perineal massage – A quick guide
The goal of perineal massage is to make the tissues at the back side of the vaginal opening flexible and supple, so that they naturally expand during childbirth. You can perform perineal massage on yourself or your partner can do it with you. And, again, a few minutes each day is all that is necessary to help these tissues stretch and relax in preparation for childbirth.
Getting the hang of perineal massage is a little tricky. Below is a brief description of the technique, but, as they say, a picture tells a thousand words, so for detailed instructions about how to perform perineal massage (complete with images!), I recommend that you check out Fairhaven Health’s two blog articles on this subject, Decreasing Damage “Down Under” During Childbirth: Perineal Massage Made Easy, Part 1 and Part 2.
- Begin your daily perineal massage routine at 34 weeks, and continue until delivery.
- Choose a comfortable position – try sitting propped up in bed with your knees bent or sitting on a stool against a wall.
- Apply a perineal massage oil, such as BabyIt Perineal Massage and PostPartum Comfort Gel, to your fingers and perineum.
- Insert your thumbs or fingers about one inch inside of the vagina, resting your palms against the inside of your leg.
- Press gently down with your thumbs or fingers toward your anus, then pull them apart from each other and out to the sides.
- Keep massaging down and out to stretch and relax the tissues for 5 minutes.
For many women, perineal massage feels awkward at first, and for the first couple of weeks you will feel some burning as you massage these tissues. With daily practice, it will become easier and more comfortable. And, keep in mind that while perineal massage isn’t particularly comfortable, neither is perineal trauma during delivery!
If your due date is approaching, be sure to add daily perineal massage to your own Pregnancy To-Do list – just 5 minutes a day can have life long benefits.
Suzanne Munson, Fairhaven Health
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