Research has shown that massaging your perineum from approximately 34 weeks into your pregnancy reduces the chance that you might damage this area during birth. This is particularly beneficial if you are having your first baby.
So what is the perineum and pelvic floor?
The perineum is the area of tissue between the vagina and anus. It connects with the muscles of the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles which supports your pelvic organs, such as your bladder and bowels.
The perineum is especially important in women. Stretching or tearing of the perineum during childbirth can affect the support that your pelvic floor gives you at the back wall of your vagina. This can mean that you are more likely to have a prolapse of your uterus. A weak pelvic floor can also affect the control you have over your bladder and bowels. Damage to your perineum might also lead to discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse.
Approximately 85% of women will have some degree of perineal tear during child birth. Perineal massages have been clinically proven to lower the risk of tearing, and also reduces the risk of the most severs types of tears by nearly 20% (according to the NHS).
What is perineal massage?
Perineal massage is a way of preparing your perineum to stretch more easily during childbirth. During birth, the perineal tissue needs to relax and open to allow your baby to pass through your vagina.
Advantages of perineal massage are:
1. It increases the elasticity of the perineum. It improves the perineum's blood flow and ability to stretch more easily and less painfully during the birth of your baby.
2. Tears in the perineum are less likely and you are less likely to need an episiotomy.
3. It helps you focus on the feeling of letting your perineum to open up.
4. It can be particularly helpful if you have previous scar tissue or rigid perineum.
When should you start?
You can start at any time from 34 weeks of your pregnancy.
To do perineal massage choose the timing well. A good time is during or after bath or shower because blood vessels in the area are more dilated. This makes the perineum softer and more comfortable to touch. You are also already more relaxed.
You should avoid doing perineal massage if you have active genital herpes, thrush or other vaginal infections.
The effect of perineal massage during the second stage of birth on nulliparous women perineal: A randomization clinical trial (2017): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5718865/
The Effect of Perineal Massage in Childbirth (2014): https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02201615