Perineal massage during pregnancy slowly and gently stretches the skin and tissues around the vagina and perineum.
It reduces the risk of a tear or the need for an episiotomy by increasing tissue elasticity and helping one prepare for the sensation usually felt in the second stage when the baby’s head stretches that whole area – the tingling, stinging, burning, numb feeling.
Knowing what to expect helps one to relax and allow the birth to occur without fighting the sensations and tensing up.
- To become familiar with the area, sit on the edge of two decent size books or yoga blocks, place a mirror on the floor and look at your genitalia, vagina and perineum.
- Most women start the massage after 30 – 34 weeks but it can be started at any time during the pregnancy
- Try doing it once a day and after several days you should notice greater stretch and flexibility in the tissue.
- The massage can be done by the woman or her partner.
- You can use the mirror to see what you are doing, or close your eyes and visualize what is happening, or focus on your partner’s eyes or a particular thing in the room.
- If there is scar tissue from a previous birth – whether from a tear or an episiotomy, concentrate on that area as scar tissue is not as stretchy as other tissue and needs extra attention.
- Use some sort of lubricant for the massage – natural vaginal secretions or oils (apricot or vegetable) or creams (paw paw or vitamin E) or KY jelly.
- Insert your thumbs 3-4 cm into the vagina and press downwards and to the sides simultaneously
- Gently stretch the opening until you feel a bumping or tingling sensation and keep the pressure up for a couple of minutes until the area feels a little numb
- Then slowly massage back and forth around the lower part of the vagina, gently pulling downwards and outwards as you work the lubricant into tissues. Keep doing it for 2-3 minutes
- Try to relax as you do the massage and if it helps release tension by panting or groaning as the sensation of stinging occurs – warm compress placed on the area can help ease the stinging and help you relax
- Avoid the urethra (urine opening) to prevent urinary tract infections and if you have any active herpes lesions avoid them to stop the spread of infection.