Labor Massage: Perineal Massage
What it is:
Perineal massage is the gentle stretching and massaging of the perineum (skin between the anus and vagina) during the last few weeks of pregnancy. This has been shown to reduce the incidence of episiotomy and perineal tears during childbirth.
How it works:
Perineal massage does not "lengthen" the tissues of the perineum. However, it does increase the stretch in two ways.
First, perineal massage is done with a cold pressed oil, which lubricates the tissue making it softer, more supple and improving is flexibility. This makes it easier for the tissues to stretch as the baby is born.
Second, perineal massage familiarizes the mother with the stretching sensations she will feel as the baby is born. This helps her learn to keep her perineal area relaxed during the stretching of crowning. Keeping the perineal area relaxed may help prevent tears.
How to do it:
Perineal massage can be done by the mother or her partner. The mother should be in a comfortable place, sitting or reclining in a way that gives access to the skin around the vagina. It can be done for up to 10 minutes a day during the last four weeks of pregnancy.
- Wash hands thoroughly. Ensure there are no sharp or long nails that may scratch the mother.
- Locate the perineum, directly below the vagina. It is the skin between the vagina and the anus. Apply some cold pressed and pure oil (such as olive oil) to this skin.
- Place the thumbs at the base of the vagina, allowing them the slide inside the vagina (to about the first joint) moving some oil with them.
- Using gentle but firm pressure, move the thumbs from the base of the vagina up the side walls as if you were making a "U".
- Return the thumbs to the base of the vagina, and repeat procedure.
As the mother becomes more comfortable with the stretch, you may increase the amount you stretch the skin.
Integrating it into labor:
The mother may perform perineal massage as part of her daily pregnancy bathing routine, before her bath or shower.
The mother and partner may enjoy the stimulation of perineal massage before intercourse.
The mother may perform perineal massage as part of a nightly relaxation routine before going to bed.