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Perineal Massage: It Ain’t Sexy -- and That’s Okay.


Source: flickr.com via Emily on Pinterest



The question this week comes from a pregnant mama who was told she should try perineal massage. Here’s the how and why.

Perineal massage is the gentle stretching and massaging of your perineum, which is the skin between the rectum and vagina, during the last few weeks of pregnancy.

It's the area that women talk about when they refer to "tearing" during childbirth, and it's the skin that is cut by a doctor in an episiotomy during labor.

My husband and I did this for several weeks, and I have to tell you, for us, it was not remotely hot. It’s actually a bit uncomfortable. When I asked one of my midwives about this dilemma, she answered, “If it feels good, you’re doing it wrong.” We ended up pretty much cracking up while we did it. Ultimately, it did not help me as my babe came out with his arm and fist next to his head, (no amount of stretching could’ve prepared me for THAT. Thanks dude.) But I had no idea of that until way after, and I was dreamily hopeful and confident that all that massage was for good use, when I asked the midwife, “Did I tear??”

Okay- The Benefits:

*The perineum becomes more supple and elastic and as a result reduces the possibility of perineal tearing or an episiotomy.

*It prepares you for the feelings of pressure and stretching when your baby's head starts to crown. Having an idea of what these sensations are like enables you to relax and as a result this can lead to a quicker birth.

*New emotional feelings may be bought to the surface, allowing you to discover and discuss these feelings with your partner before the birth. Some emotions you may feel are fear, uncertainty, overwhelming love, excitement, and it can also create a deeper appreciation of your partner.

*Perineal massage during labor also helps to ease the tissues around the baby's head as it is crowning.

It is particularly effective in women over the age of 20 and in women having their first baby. In 1999, there was an article in the American Journal of Ob/Gyn by Labrecque that evaluated the effectiveness of perineal massage during pregnancy for the prevention of perineal trauma at birth.

You can begin to do this massage around the 34th week of your pregnancy. If you are further along and haven't started, there is still benefit from doing it. You can do it as often as once a day.

The good news is that massage is just one part of a recipe to protect your perineum.  Birth position can also be a factor. Try choosing a position that is more upright (kneeling, squatting, sitting). This allows the perineum to evenly distribute the pressure. Choose a water birth. A side-lying birth position can also prevent large amounts of strain on the perineum.  A slow, controlled delivery is a big key to an intact perineum and reduced incidence of laceration. Tune in to your body, and listen closely to the midwife or health care provider for advice on when to push and when to stop pushing.

If nothing else, it gives you some specific time to focus on yourself, your amazing body, and get ready for the baby that will soon be coming your way!

For detailed directions, go here. Relax, and enjoy. (Well, sort of.)

Did YOU do perineal massage? What are your thoughts? Have Ecobaby questions of your own? Leave it here, or email me directly. See you next week!

Xo Melanie


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