Preparing to give birth is a big thing whether it is your first or any other number. Your body will automatically make several changes to get ready for the birth but there are also things you can do to help the process. One of these is called perineal massage – but what is it and what are the benefits?
Explaining perineal massage
Perineal massage is the process of massaging the perineum, the area between the vagina and the anus. The aim of the massage is to loosen the muscles in this area to allow the vagina to stretch and for the baby to pass through without causing tearing.
The process has been shown to help reduce the risk of requiring an episiotomy, especially in first time mums. An episiotomy is a process where the perineum is cut to help the baby to be born due to the vagina not stretching sufficiently. The process is only used if the midwife or obstetrician thinks it is necessary and is not a routine part of labour. It is typically used if the baby is distressed and needs to be born quickly or if you have been pushing for a long time with no success. It may also be used if the baby is breech or you are at risk of a serious tear without the procedure.
Preparing for massage
Perineal massage can be something done yourself with the help of a mirror or with someone else if you are comfortable with them touching you in that area. A large mirror will help you ensure you are massaging the right area though after a few times, you will probably know by the feel of it if you are succeeding in your aim.
Some women find it is a benefit to have a bath before the massage. This softens the skin and makes it more elastic as well as relaxing the body. Those in the late stage of pregnancy often find the massage itself is relaxing!
One key ingredient to the massage is the use of a natural oil. This makes the process easier and also there are benefits from the oils themselves as well as smelling pleasant. You can use oils such as sweet almond or jojoba as well as olive or wheatgerm oil as well as natural products such as coconut butter. Avoid anything petroleum based as they may cause irritation.
Benefits of perineal massage
In all honesty, perineal massage may not be for everyone but there are benefits to it if you can manage or can manage your partner performing it on you. By relaxing the muscles and making the passage for your baby a little easier, you reduce the risk of having to have a painful episiotomy or that your perineum area may tear during delivery.
Experts recommend performing perineal massage until you are around 34 weeks pregnant and try to do it once or twice a week. Don’t do it any more than this as you may lose the potential benefits. The process shouldn’t hurt but may feel a bit uncomfortable – this is worth enduring if it can make your baby’s entrance into the world a little easier on you both!