Perineal Massage During Pregnancy Helps Prevent Tearing During Delivery
When it comes to perineal massage - this old saying applies: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
What is POerineal Massage?
Perineal massage involves the gentle, manual stretching of the tissues that shape the birth canal. The benefits of this ancient practice have been studied by researchers, and there is now strong scientific evidence indicating that when done regularly in the last 3 to 4 weeks of pregnancy, perineal massage increases your chance of delivering a baby vaginally without damaging your perineum, which results in a decreased chance of tearing and episiotomy.
Perineal tears and surgical cuts (episiotomies) require stitching, which can lengthen recovery time after delivery and often cause scarring, pain and urinary or fecal incontinence that can negatively impact your life long after childbirth. The good news is that dedicating just 5 minutes each day during the last several weeks of pregnancy doing perineal massage can prevent trauma to your perineal tissues during childbirth.
It is the tissues of your perineum that create a strong pelvic floor, and allow you to walk upright and prevent you from urinating every time you cough. Needless to say, it is important that these tissues are 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 aren’t able to stretch during delivery, which results in perineal trauma or tearing. But, just like other types of massage or stretching, perineal massage during the last several weeks of pregnancy can relax and stretch the tissues of your perineum. This gentle massage keeps the perineal tissues flexible and supple and prepares them to relax and expand naturally during delivery. Perineal massage also allows you to practice breathing through the burning sensation of perineal stretching, which many women say helps them to be more confident and relaxed during labor.
Will perineal massage definitely stop me tearing or needing an episiotomy?Possibly but not definitely.
So far, research supports that about 1-2 in 16 women practicing perineal massage avoids stitches altogether.
“People shouldn’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work,” says Gail. “Sometimes the baby comes out with its hand up by its head, and you can’t help but tear.”
Tearing can be really uncomfortable, and you may need stitches. It might feel sore, and sting when you go to the loo.
Again, tearing is quite common and, as long as you keep clean and dry, and do pelvic floor exercises, it shouldn’t hamper your recovery.
How else can I try to stop tearing?“It’s important to ensure you are well nourished and hydrated, as your body will work more effectively,” says Gail Johnsen. A slow, controlled delivery is the key to minimizing tears: using breathing exercises and performing the ‘braking’ position when the urge to push is strong.
One mom’s experience of Perineal Massage
Naomi F tried perineal massage when she was pregnant with her 21-month-old daughter Polly, and she feels it’s worth a try.
“I heard about perineal massage in my class, but what prompted me to do it was a friend who believed it had helped her.
“She knew how much I wanted to prevent tearing, and recommended an oil to use. I started when I was 35 weeks pregnant and tried to do it every day (although probably did it every other day).
“I found it a bit bizarre,” she confesses. “It’s not like you can get someone to show you how, but the more I did it, the more relaxed I felt.
“When I gave birth to Polly, I had a very small tear and didn’t need stitches. It’s not as if she slid out effortlessly though!
“It’s hard to know what would have happened if I hadn’t done the massage, to be honest, but I do think it softened the tissue and made me more aware of the muscles involved in labor. I would recommend it.”
A Really Good Massage Blog
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.