In Birth, Vaginal Birth
Jenny Fielding, women’s health physiotherapist of Joint Dynamics HK, explains the perineal massage technique

The vagina is designed to stretch and accommodate your baby during childbirth, and just a few weeks after delivery it returns to nearly the same size. But the perineum – the area between the vagina and anus – is less elastic and may tear as you give birth. Massaging this area during pregnancy could help to prepare the body for giving birth, by loosening the muscles that need to stretch. This is known as a perineal massage.

Giving a little extra attention to the perineum area in the final weeks of pregnancy may help you avoid tearing, bruising, or episiotomy, thus making your recovery from childbirth a little easier. You can perform the perineal massage by yourself at home or with the help of your partner. It’s not always easy to figure out how to give do perineal massage, so we’ve got some top tips on how to get this technique right.

Why a perineal massage is so beneficial

Perineal massage during pregnancy entails the gentle, manual stretching of the tissues that shape the birth canal. Scientific evidence suggests that when practiced regularly towards the end of pregnancy, perineal massage improves your chance of delivering a baby vaginally without damaging the perineum.

Between 40-80% of women experience some degree of tearing during vaginal childbirth. This could lead to issues with the pelvic floor, such as sexual discomfort, urinary or fecal incontinence, or uterine prolapse, which is why taking precautions (like perineal massage) to reduce the possibility of experiencing a tear in the perineum can be important.

When to start perineal massage during pregnancy

You can start performing perineal massages from 34 weeks of pregnancy onwards or for the last four to six weeks of it. That said, we recommend that you start learning the technique a little earlier, when your baby bump isn’t too big. This will ensure that you can learn the technique and get a feel for it without your bump getting in the way.

Some sources state that the benefit is seen when practiced once or twice a week, while others suggest it can be done everyday or every other day. As with many things in pregnancy, recommendations will differ from person to person. But it has been shown that just five minutes of perineal massage per session using a lubricating oil or lotion may help to prevent long term complications.

What do I need to get started?

Before you get started with your perineal massage routine, it’s essential that you get to know your body. You should educate yourself on the important body parts, what their function is, and what to expect from them. When researching, be sure to use credible sources such as national health systems or professional bodies. You can always reach out to Urban Hatch for a chat and discuss the most suitable techniques for you.

Your next step is to learn the technique and test it out when you have some time on your hands and are feeling nice and warm and relaxed. A good time is after a relaxing bath or warm shower because at this point the blood vessels in the area are dilated, which makes the perineum softer and more comfortable to touch. Also, be sure to empty your bladder and bowel before starting, and always wash your hands.

Oils to use for Perineal Massage

You can use a variety of oils for perineal massage. The idea is to lubricate your fingers, thumbs, and the perineal tissues to avoid friction. Use a lubricant such as almond oil, vitamin E oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, or a water-soluble jelly.

There are many options to choose from so it all comes down to personal preference. However, do not use scented oil, mineral oil, baby oil, or petroleum jelly, as all of these are unsuitable for the perineum area.

Whatever you choose, be sure to patch test a bit on your skin first just to check that your skin doesn’t become irritated by certain oils.

Is Perineal Massage worth a try?

Absolutely. As long as you are comfortable trying it. The key is to be gentle with your body and take time to explore how the perineum feels. It’s also a great way for your partner to become more involved in your pregnancy and care. But more importantly, perineal massage is a good practice to add to your toolbox as you prepare for labor and delivery.

Urban Hatch

Urban Hatch is the online destination for mums-to-be and new mothers to receive support, guidance and care. Our mission is to help you and your partner thrive at parenthood from bump to birth and beyond.