Perineal massage is a massage technique used to stretch and prepare the skin of the perineum, (the skin between the vagina and anus) for birth. By preparing the perineal tissues for the stretching encountered in birthing, there is less likelihood that they will tear. Women who practice perineal massage on a daily basis for 10 minutes tend to experience less of the stinging sensation that occurs during crowning. Additionally, women who do this massage technique familiarize themselves with the stretching sensations that will occur during birth.
Beginning sometime around the 34th week of pregnancy is the best time to start perineal massage, but expectant mothers can benefit from this massage even if it is started at a later time during the pregnancy. This massage technique also helps to prevent lacerations that may occur. It's especially effective for women over 20 years of age. Perineal massage not only prepares the perineal tissue for birth but also teaches women how to control these muscles as well as how to relax them not only for birthing purposes but also for general pelvic exams.
The perineal massage technique consists of the expectant mother or her partner applying pressure by inserting one or two fingers into the vagina and stretching downwards and to the sides of the vaginal entrance. Having her partner do the massage can help develop the co-operation and feedback needed during the labor.
Done with natural oil such as vitamin E, almond oil or unscented oil massaged into the tissues of the perineum and the lower vaginal wall, this massage technique lubricates the tissues, making it easier for the tissues to stretch during birthing. Women have experienced a noticeable change in the stretchability of the perineum tissues after doing this massage for a week or two. This massage technique assists in delivery with an intact perineum as well as teaching the expectant mother how to keep her pelvic area relaxed during the stinging that occurs during crowning, which can help prevent tears. This massage technique conditions the perineum area, which naturally expands to allow for birth. Perineal massage can reduce the need for an episiotomy, where an incision is made near the vagina to ease the delivery. It also helps to reduce instrumental births. Women who have perineal massage before birth also experience fewer complications such as infection, blood loss, and pain during the postpartum period. This massage technique also assists in effective recovery from labor.