The perineum is the tiny space between the vagina and the anus. This tissue can become strained during vaginal childbirth and is at risk of tearing or being surgically cut (known as an episiotomy). To prevent this from occurring, I often recommend women to conduct perineal massage to soften this area weeks before labour begins to allow for the stretching that is necessary. In a recent Cochrane review, it was determined that perineal massage during pregnancy significantly reduce the incidence of perineal trauma during birth.
Procedure for a perineal massage:
- start around 34 week’s gestation,
- with your back support, spread legs and apply a massage oil (olive oil, coconut oil, etc) to your fingers or your partner’s fingers,
- place thumb or finger approximately 5cm (2 inches) into your vagina and apply downward pressure to the 3 o’clock side then slowly slide to 6 o’clock, then 9 o’clock positions applying pressure, and
- repeat this motion for 4-5 minutes 3-4 times per week.
For more about preventing perineal tearing, see this post.