Avoid An Episiotomy During Labor: Massage Your Perineum!

Episiotomy Prevention

I know what you’re probably thinking.

“Wait, you want me to massage where?”

But do us a favor and set your inhibitions aside for a moment. If you’re pregnant and are worried about the trauma associated with an episiotomy, or even just the run-of-the-mill perineum tearing that comes along with having a child, you’re probably someone who could benefit greatly from a perineal massage.

Many experts believe that by beginning to massage your perineum around your 34th week of pregnancy, you can greatly decrease your chances of experiencing an episiotomy or tearing during childbirth. While not a guaranteed science, it is said that a daily perineum massage will increase your ability to stretch down there, eliminating the biggest worry most women carry with them throughout their final trimesters.

If you’re still reading at this point, chances are you’re probably interested in performing a perineal massage yourself. While it’s true that getting up close and personal with your perineum while working around a pregnant belly can be a difficult feat, it’s certainly not impossible. Below is a brief outline on the technique, as well as a few tips and tricks that will help aid any struggling beginner.

Performing a Perineal Massage While Pregnant

  • If you plan on performing your perinuem massage yourself instead of utilizing your partner, start by washing your hands and trimming your nails if necessary. It might seem like a minor detail, but it’s one that makes all the difference.
  • If you feel at all unfamiliar with your perineal area, grab a large hand mirror so that you can have a better idea of what you’re working with.
  •  Once your hands are clean, your nails are trimmed, and you’re somewhat familiar with your perineum, sit in a semi-reclined position in an area where you’re most comfortable. Bend your legs at the knee and spread them apart.
  • Lubricate your fingers, thumbs, and perineal area with a personal lubricant or (preferably) Vitamin E oil if you have it on hand. Baby oil, petroleum jelly, and mineral oil should be avoided when tending to your perineum, as this area can be quite sensitive.
  •  Carefully place both your thumbs about 1 to 1 1/2 inches inside your vaginal opening. For reference, this will be about to or just past your first knuckles. Press downwards toward your rectum and the sides of your vaginal canal at the same time. Very gently but firmly continue this stretching until you feel a slit tingling or burning sensation. Hold this stretch for roughly two minutes.
  •  Hook your thumbs onto the sides of your vaginal canal and gently pull the tissue forward while gently massaging the lower most part of your vagina back and fourth. This will mimic what your baby’s head will do during labor. Continue this for up to four minutes, then massage the tissue between your thumbs and forefingers in a back and fourth rotation for another minute or two.

As you can see, performing a perineal massage isn’t all that complicated, but it’s very important that you work gently. Massaging your perineal area too roughly could lead to swelling or bruising, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to do. You should also avoid putting pressure on your urinary opening (urethra) while you work, as this could increase your risk of developing an irritation or infection. With that said, when performed correctly, perineal massages are a perfectly safe practice.

In summary, a perineal massage may not be everyones cup of tea, nor is it a guaranteed solution in every case, but they can be beneficial nonetheless. If you feel too leery about performing a massage on your perineum yourself, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor or midwife about other options that will minimize your risk of an episiotomy or perineum tears during labor.

After all, a happy healthy mom is just as important as a happy healthy baby!