Perineal Massage

by Pregnancy.org Staff

What is Perineal Massage?

Perineal massage is the gentle stretching and massaging of the skin between the anus and vagina (perineum) during the last few weeks of pregnancy. This massage has been shown to reduce the incidence of episiotomy and perineal tears during birth.

Many women try to decide if they want their birth plan to say whether to have an episiotomy or not. This, however, is a decision that it may best to wait until the point of crowning, when the care provider can evaluate the perineum and offer the best suggestion. Slow controlled delivery is important to an intact perineum and reduced incidence of laceration. The baby must not suffer any form of fetal distress and the mother and partner must listen closely to the midwife's or doctor's instructions on when to push and when to not push. The advantage of doing perineal massage -- it may permit the mother to give birth without an episiotomy or laceration.

Benefits of Perineal Massage

  • Perineum becomes more supple and elastic and as a result reduces the possibility of perineal tearing or an episiotomy.
  • Prepares you for the feelings of pressure and stretching when your baby's head starts to crown. Having a idea of what these sensations are like enables you to relax and as a result this can lead to a quicker birth. Tension will delay your baby's descent.
  • New emotional feelings may be bought to the surface. This will allow you to discover and discuss these feelings with your partner before the birth and can help you to grow a deeper appreciation of each other. Some emotions you may feel are fear, uncertainty, overwhelming love, excitement etc.
  • Perineal massage during labor helps to ease the tissues around the baby's head as it is crowning and clearly benefits both mother and child. This area is very sensitive during the birth so it is often more helpful for the mother to use perineal massage during this time.

Partner Communication During Perineal Massage

The mother and/or her partner can do perineal massage.

Tips for your partner

  • It is important to be a good listener.
  • Enjoy and make the most of being together before your baby is born.
  • If you are not already doing so, help share the household chores.
  • Communication is very important. Share your feelings and concerns with each other.
  • A little babying and pampering of each other doesn't hurt!

It is important to talk about any feelings that arise (if any).

Mom may be having these thoughts or feelings:

  • "I don't want him to see this is sexually."
  • "I am very intimidated at the thought of perineal massage. What if I can't do it or feel awkward about it?"
  • "I feel 'exposed' and it makes me nervous to have my partner is invovled."
  • "I think this may help me to overcome the inhibitions I am now feel."
  • "Will this lead to a greater feeling of trust and closeness in our relationship?"
  • "I'm happy I am doing this now so that I have a idea of the sensation of baby's head crowning during birth."

Partners may be having these thoughts or feelings:

  • "I'm worried if I can do this."
  • "I'm worried about hurting her or that I am not doing it right."
  • "I'm happy she feels secure enough in our relationship to let me do this."
  • "I feel I am helping in some way."
  • "I think it builds our trust in each other."

Perineal Massage Techniques

The following directions are for the expectant mother. But partners can take their cue from this as well.

  • Wash hands, and find a relaxing place to do the massage (bathroom, bedroom, where ever you are comfortable)
  • Sit in a comfortable position. (A warm bath or warm compresses on the perineum for 10 minutes before massage may help with relaxation.)
  • Put a water-soluble lubricant (KY Jelly, etc.) olive oil, vegetable oil or Vitamin E oil on thumbs and perineum.
  • Place thumb just inside of the vagina.
  • Press downward towards the rectum and to the sides at the same time until a very slight burning, stinging, or tingling sensation is felt
  • Hold the pressure for about 1 minute
  • Breathe deeply and slowly and try to consciously relax the muscles.
  • Keep pressing down with the thumb and slowly and gently massage back and forth over the sides of the vagina in a 'U' movement for 3 minutes.
  • Relax and repeat once.

Caution: Avoid pressure at the top of the vaginal opening. Massage gently as forceful massage could cause bruising or swelling. Do not massage if there is active vaginal infection or herpes lesions.

Warning: DO NOT USE PERINEAL MASSAGE IF YOU HAVE ACTIVE HERPES/THRUSH!

Note: This information is intended for educational purposes only. You should seek further advice and instruction from your chosen health care professional.

Copyright © Pregnancy.org, LLC.