Perineal massage is a technique that is believed to prevent vaginal tearing and reduce episiotomies. But does it work? What can you do other than a perineal massage to avoid tearing?
Perineal massage is an old technique that allows the pelvic muscles to relax and increase their stretching. But what are there any alternatives you can do other than this massage? Yes.
Other than perineal massage, you can do Kegels or exercises that can help your pelvic muscles relax, stretch, and accommodate your baby. If you want to prepare your body for childbirth beforehand, you must stretch and prepare your perineum to reduce tearing.
In this article, we will discuss:
- What is a perineal massage?
- How is a perineal massage performed?
- Downsides of perineal massage
- Alternatives to perineal massage
What is a Perineal Massage?
Massage is known for helping soften the tissues that a baby stretches during vaginal delivery. Taking care of this part of you in the final weeks of your pregnancy may help reduce the risk of episiotomy, avoid bruising tearing, and make the recovery a little easier.
A woman’s perineum is the tissue area between the vaginal opening and the anus. The perineum attaches to the muscles supporting the reproductive bowels, organs, and bladder. This is called the pelvic floor.
A perineal massage stretches and manipulates the perineal tissue using one or two fingers. The purpose of this massage is to prepare your tissues to help stretch over the baby’s head and body during vaginal delivery.
A pregnant woman can perform this massage at home by herself or with the help of her partner.
How is a Perineal Massage Done?
Many women start perineal massages during their third trimester. Here’s how you should do it:
Have the nails trimmed short before you or your partner performs this massage? After, wash the hands thoroughly. Find a place where you can relax without interruptions. Have your legs open wide with knees bent.
Ensure that you have your oils with you and a mirror that can be used (if need be).
Get Into a Comfortable Position
The positions you can try to make yourself comfortable are:
- Sitting on the toilet.
- Lean back in the bath with each leg propped up on either side of the tub.
- Standing under a warm shower with one leg propped up on a stool or chair (and changing legs).
- Reclining on a bed or sofa with pillows behind you, allowing your partner to reach your perineum easily.
Lubricate the Perineum
With your fingers (or your partner’s fingers), put some oil on your perineum and the lower part of your vaginal opening. This makes the massage more comfortable.
Practice Relaxation and Start the Massage
Take some deep breaths to calm yourself down and start the massage. Here’s what you will be doing:
- Put your thumbs 2.5 to 4cm inside the back wall of your vagina. You can use a mirror for the first few times to make the process easier.
- Apply downward pressure to your anus and the sides of the vaginal wall. You should feel your muscles stretching.
- Hold this stretching position for about one to two minutes.
- After that, massage the lower part of your vagina for about two to three minutes. Focus on relaxing your perineum. Keep performing the massage with your thumbs upwards and outwards, then back again (in a U-shaped motion). Repeat this movement two to three times.
Along with massage, practice breathing, and relaxing techniques. Some women focus the movement on any previous scar tissue. Remember, perineal massage shouldn’t hurt. You may only feel pressure in the first few weeks of starting, nothing more.
Involve Your Partner
In the later stages of pregnancy, massaging the perineum can be difficult. You should ask your partner to do it for you. Your partner will use the same method written above to perform this massage.
Do It Regularly
Repeat perineal massage daily during the last stages of pregnancy. Somehow, fit it into your daily or weekly routine. You can perform this massage after a shower or bath. This is a good time for this massage as the blood vessels are dilated, making the perineum tissues softer.
Moreover, you will feel more relaxed after a shower or bath.
Downsides of Perineal Massage?
While there are multiple benefits of perineal massage, some of the potential downsides are:
This massage might not work.
It takes time and consistency to perform this massage right. To experience any potential advantages, a pregnant woman should perform perineal massage every day in the last 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy.
Massaging an area too hard can increase the blood flow, which is already greater. This can cause inflammation, leading to discomfort, pain, and irritation.
If you have a yeast infection, herpes, or other vaginal infections, it is best to talk to your doctor or practitioner before performing a perineal massage.
If a perineal massage causes even little pain, stop and ask your practitioner if it is normal or if you should consult a physical therapist.
Alternatives to Perineal Massage
So, a perineal massage might not work. It makes you uncomfortable or causes pain. Plus, the risk of tearing and episiotomy with hard pelvic muscles increases. What should you do?
To prevent tearing and make the birthing process easier for you, we have found out these ways:
Understand What Your Body Needs
It is critical to listen to your body during childbirth for multiple reasons, and it is equally important to listen to it if you want to prevent tearing. When the time is near, your body will force you to use positions that ease your perineum.
To understand which positions are the best, you don’t have to research. Instead, identify how you feel when you sit in a specific way. Do you feel tense? Are you relaxed? What positions do you sit in that make you more comfortable?
Does sitting spreadeagled in a semi-squat or on your back make your perineum tight and stretched? Most probably yes. The baby will stretch the tissues during birthing no matter which position you choose.
However, choosing a position like kneeling with one knee down, one up, both knees down, or standing, may make you feel more relaxed. In addition, make sure you pay attention to how you can consciously relax your pelvic floor muscles and tissues.
Practice purposeful relaxation techniques to ease the tension in the pelvic floor area during birth.
Build Strong Pelvic Floor Muscles
A strong pelvic floor with well-toned muscles will work better for you during birth. Having toned pelvic muscles also mean that the blood circulation will increase in your tissues, resulting in soft and supple tissues.
Most pregnant women have heard about kegel exercises. These exercises help squeeze the muscles in your pelvic floor. However, only Kegels aren’t enough for toning the muscles in your pelvic floor.
The deep squat is the best exercise to go along with Kegels to increase your pelvic floor strength and tone. Although the deep squat is similar to Kegels, it is a complex exercise that doesn’t isolate parts of your body.
Deep squats work out multiple muscle groups, tissues, and ligaments. So, create a habit of daily deep squats to build your pelvic floor muscles.
Internal Work from The Pink Kit Method
There are multiple massage techniques taught to women to perform before childbirth. And perineal massage is the most common one. However, the conflicting opinions have made women doubt its authenticity.
So, there is another type of massage called Internal Work from The Pink Kit Method. It is quite different than a perineal massage. This massage technique raises awareness of relaxation and tension of the muscles.
This relaxing technique also reduces long-lasting tension in the pelvic floor. In short, practicing conscious control of the tension and relaxation in the perineum tissues and muscles will make your birthing process easier.
Getting pregnant and giving birth is one of the best experiences for women. However, the pain they have to undergo isn’t.
If you are uncomfortable with perineal massages, you can perform Kegels or other squatting positions to prevent tearing stitches and make it easier for the baby to push out.
Now it’s time to hear from you:
Have you given childbirth before?
How was your experience?
What alternatives to perineal massage do you suggest?
Let’s hear it directly from you in the comments section below and help us spread pregnancy awareness!