Perineal Massage to Help Prep for Baby's Arrival
What’s all the hoopla about perineal massage?
If you are an expecting parent, especially with your first pregnancy, you may have come across the term ‘perineal massage’. It has been touted as a way to minimize tissue trauma during a vaginal delivery, but does it work? And what is it all about? Read on to learn more about this intervention and tools that may help with perineal care.
What is perineal massage?
Perineal massage is a manual technique that can be used by expecting birth parents to help prepare the tissues around the vagina and vulvar tissues for labour and delivery. The techniques can be performed by the birthing person themselves, or with the assistance of a partner, doula or a birth helper.
There are several benefits to incorporating perineal massage and stretching into your birth preparation. Some of these include:
- Potentially helps to reduce the severity of tearing to the tissues around the vaginal entry and perineum.
- Allows the birthing parent to experience the sensation of uncomfortable tissue stretch and become accustomed to the sensations prior to delivery. This can help to alleviate any excessive tension or protective responses that the pelvic floor muscles may have as baby is descending in the birth canal.
- Gives the birth parent some autonomy while preparing for birth and enhances the sense of empowerment and purpose prior to this transition in life.
Recent research has identified that perineal massage is most effective for first time vaginal deliveries (also known as primiparous), however can still be of benefit for those that have had previous vaginal deliveries.
When should I be doing perineal massage?
Literature varies but typically, perineal massage is recommended to birthing people to begin no earlier than 34-36 weeks of gestation, so long as clearance is given by your obstetrical care provider (e.g. midwife, GP or obstetrician).
When should I NOT do perineal massage?
People should not perform perineal massage techniques if:
- The person has been told by their OB or midwife or birth professional to not have intercourse or if they have been put on bedrest.
- If there is the presence of an active infection (eg. urinary tract infection or have a vaginal infection such as bacterial vaginosis or yeast).
- If the individuals ‘water has broken’.
What are some techniques that I can use for perineal massage:
There are several ways to stretch, massage and prepare the tissues for delivery. Diagonal and ‘U’ stretches to the perineum may be helpful. To learn more about some of these techniques, sign up to receive our FREE Birth Preparation Video Series. Not only does it cover the basics of perineal massage, it also provides insight into other helpful strategies around, breathing for birth, mindfulness and how to prepare your cervix for birth.
If you'd like to read more about the evidence of perineal massage, visit our clinical site blogpost here.