You have probably heard people talking about perineal massage. It is becoming increasingly popular and even celebs are talking about it on our favourite TV shows. This is because many pregnant women worry about their impending birth for one reason or another. One of the many things that women fear is the thought of tearing or needing a cut (also called an episiotomy) as their baby is born. Well, perineal massage is a way of reducing the risk of tearing or needing a cut during labour.
We have created the below guide to help explain what perineal massage is and how you can perform it, so keep reading if you want to find out more!
What is the perineum ?
You might not know where the perineum is – lots of women I talk to don’t know either so you’re not on your own there! Your perineum is the area of skin and underlying muscles that run between your vaginal opening and your back passage (anus). It is this area that stretches as baby’s head is born and similarly it is this area that tends to tear or will be cut during birth if the situation dictates.
What is perineal massage?
Perineal massage is the massaging of the perineum both on the inside and out in preparation for birth. It’s advisable to start anytime from 34 weeks of pregnancy and ideally should be done 2-3 times a week, but if you want to do it every day then that’s perfectly acceptable too. It takes about 5-10 minutes to do and can be done by yourself or your partner if it’s more comfortable (it can get more difficult to reach the area as your bump grows) – some women like to incorporate it into the “intimates times” with their partner as it feels more natural to them.
What can I use to perform the massage?
Oil is needed as lubrication, our Down Below Perineal Massage Oil is perfect for this because it’s fragrance free so is suitable for the sensitive area of your perineum, in fact it’s allergen free because it’s made from a carefully selected blend of natural plant oils (not even nut oils!) and because it’s been purposefully made for the job we’ve ensured with our chemists that it is perfectly safe to use for perineal massage! It’s also clean and hygienic to use with its pipette dispenser direct onto your fingers and no dribble down the bottle!
How do I perform a perineal massage?
The first thing is to make sure you (or your partner) have clean hands and short fingernails, that you have emptied your bladder and are relaxed in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Some women find a mirror handy to help visualise the area, whilst incorporating it into the bedtime routine after a bath or shower is also popular as it brings warmth to the tissues surrounding the area which helps the process. Positioning can be how you feel you’re most comfortable; semi –sitting, one foot up on the toilet, bath or stool, squatting against a wall.
Next place 1-2 drops of Down Below massage oil onto your fingers (forefingers & middle fingers) and apply to the outside of your perineum. Place your thumbs about 2 inches (5 cm] into your vagina.
Press downwards with your thumbs in the direction of your anus so that you can feel the stretch of the muscles surrounding the vagina and the vaginal tissues. Once you have this downward pressure, use your thumbs to sweep from side to side in a rhythmic “U” shape/hammock movement. Whilst massaging the perineum from the outside with your other fingers. When massaging, apply steady pressure towards the anus. This may tingle, but should not hurt! This will also help you to recognise the sensation that you experience when your baby’s head begins to crown.
Focus on relaxing your pelvic floor muscles as you massage, you will notice a difference in how it feels inside, it’s really useful to have an understanding of this when it comes to giving birth because a tense pelvic floor will in a sense fight against you trying to push the baby out!
The perineum will possibly feel tight when you first start, but in time you will begin to feel a change as the tissues relax and stretch; remember this should not hurt! If your partner is performing the massage, just follow the same instructions but ask them to use their index fingers using the same “U” shape/ hammock motion. It is important to tell your partner how much pressure to apply.
Finally do not perform perineal massage if you are suffering from Herpes, Vaginal thrush or other known infections. Please contact your midwife or GP if you suspect any of these infections.
All Midwives know about perineal massage and most will talk to you about it towards the end of your pregnancy so if you’re still unsure if it’s right for you check with your own midwife.
We hope this blog has helped you in your perineal massage journey! Our Down Below massage oil can be purchased here.