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Massages have been used for years to help with relaxation, recovery and recuperation. It is no longer a secret that a massage done right can be extremely calming both physically and mentally. This is why doctors have begun recommending massages for women who are pregnant. One of the most popular late pregnancy massages is the perineal massage.
What is a Perineal Massage?
Located between the anus and vagina, the perineum is a muscle used heavily at the time of delivery. During childbirth, this region suffers heavy damage and is stretched or even torn. There are even times when your doctor may have to perform a procedure called an episiotomy. This is where the doctor helps deliver a child by cutting the perineum. The tearing of this muscle is quite painful.
A perineum massage is used to help slowly relax the perineum muscle, so, it helps increase the muscle flexibility and durability, this can help avoid the need to rip the muscle during childbirth. This massage is strongly recommended for women because it speeds up recovery after the delivery.
Benefits of a Perineal Massage in Pregnancy
Doctors recommend the perineal massage for normal delivery due to the numerous benefits it can have on the recovery process.
- The massage increases fluidity in the muscles which helps make childbirth less painful
- It is known to help the suppleness of the lower cervix region, which in turn helps speed up the recovery time after the delivery.
- The movement of the entire region around the perineum becomes less rigid and, in turn, helps movement and blood circulation.
- The tissues in the region become softer and more flexible, helping ease the delivery while preserving the muscle.
- It reduces the chances that you will need an episiotomy.
- Decreases the chances for assisted deliveries like the vacuum assisted birthing method
- The massage increases the width of the birth canal and decreases the tingling pain during crowning. The increased blood flow caused by the massage also helps ease the baby out of the womb, ensuring fewer complications.
Does a Perineal Massage Really Help Prevent Tearing During Birth?
For centuries, this massage has been practised by many cultures around the world due to its believed ability to stop the tearing during birth. According to sources, there are numerous studies done that now have scientific and empirical evidence that prove these beliefs to be true. Massaging the perineum for 3 or 4 weeks before the date of delivery is believed to stretch the rigid and taut muscles in the region of the anus and vagina. This helps the region develop an elasticity that improves the overall chances of preserving the muscle itself. This acts as a preventive measure for tearing during childbirth. The perineal massage also helps stimulate the region and improve blood flow around the perineum, anus and vagina. This not only helps the recovery to these regions but also works towards preparing the actual region for the trauma of childbirth.
Note: Talk to your doctor before attempting the perineal massage, some pregnancies can be complicated and it is always best to get medical advice before commencing any form of activity that may impact the pregnancy.
How to Do a Perineal Massage
Before performing the massage, it is important to understand the method and technique required to perform the massage as well as other key points like when to begin, how often to perform the massage and what you need for the massage itself.
1. When to Start
It is recommended that you perform the massage continuously for 4-6 weeks before the expected due date. Ensure you have someone in the room with you when you begin the massage to assist you in case of any emergency. Consult your primary healthcare physician and OBGYN before commencing the massage.
2. How Often to Massage
Perform the massage once in the morning and once in the evening for better results. If the massage feels uncomfortable twice a day, then reduce it to once a day. Do not perform the massage if there is excruciating pain or any other side effects that you experience; in this circumstance, consult your doctor.
3. What You Require to Get Started
Before you begin the massage, here are a few key requirements you need to keep in mind:
- You must have finely trimmed and filed nails
- Remember to keep a full-length mirror in front of you to find the location of the perineum
- Ensure you lubricate well. Vitamin E oil is recommended but you can use either KY jelly or vegetable oil. For alternative lubricants, talk to your doctor.
4. How to Do the Prenatal Perineal Massage By Yourself
Once the equipment is in place, follow these techniques to perform the actual massage:
- Ensure you stretch your legs to the required extent.
- Insert both thumbs into your vagina.
- Using your thumbs, press downward and then pull to the side (this can cause a slight tingling sensation or slight pain. If the pain is excruciating, stop.)
- Hold this press for 2 to 2.5 minutes.
- Using your thumbs and forefingers, rub your perineum for a minute or a minute and a half
- Once this technique becomes comfortable, you can begin to add Kegel exercises to further stimulate the effects of the massage.
It is well known that prevention is the best form of preparation. Starting the perineum massage and including other activities that help with natural childbirth, like prenatal yoga, is the best way to prevent complications that can be avoided. Pregnancy can be physically traumatic, so always remember to get sufficient rest and talk to your doctor regularly during and after the pregnancy. It is also recommended that you perform the massage for the first few times after talking to a specialist to ensure proper form and technique, so you don’t hurt yourself or your baby.
A Final Note: Always remember to communicate with your caregivers and doctors about any sensations that feel unnatural during the massage. If the massage begins to feel different after a while, consult your doctor on if it is okay to continue the perineum massages.
Also read: Postpartum Perineal Pain – Causes & Relief