How to do Perineal Massage: On your Own or with a Partner

If you’re headed towards the last weeks of your pregnancy you might have heard about the importance of perineal massage. It is a massage technique that could prevent tearing during childbirth.

You can do perineal massage on yourself, or you can have your partner do the massage for you. Whichever way you prefer, perineal massage is performed by using the thumbs and fingers to massage and stretch the perineum.

Reaching the perineum is not a simple task.

Pregnant women have different views and attitudes towards performing perineal massage, with a mix of negative and positive feelings.

They feel it may not always be comfortable, either physically or emotionally.  They feel that learning the technique is too difficult or there are concerns with its benefits and its safety. Some women feel it is just too time-consuming.  

Other reasons why women had resistance to the massage is not relishing the idea of touching themselves, feeling embarrassed too at the thought of involving their partner. What if their partner was appalled at the idea? The very request could lead to irritation, with the partner just wishing she would get on with it on her own.

Moreover, women expressed technical problems such as difficulty with actually reaching the vagina and the discomfort of thumb- and finger cramps.

On the Positive Side …. 

Most women discover that the uncomfortable or unpleasant burning sensation first experienced dissipates by the 3rd week of massage.

For those women where sexual function  decreases during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, the massage had the means to increase intimacy, encouraging  experimentation in their goals to stretch the perineum.

 

How to do Perineal Massage on your Own

Preparation:

  • Go to the toilet and empty your bladder.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water.
  • Many women take a warm bath to soften the perineum, making the tissue more flexible. Some women opt to do the massage in the shower.
  • Cut your fingernails short.
  • Choose a relaxing, private, quiet place. This can be your bedroom or the bathroom.
  • Get If you are lying down, prop your legs up with pillows for support and keep the knees bent. You can prop yourself up with pillows to support your back.
  • Sit back with knees bent and legs apart.
  • Keep a small mirror on hand so you can see and find your perineum.

Perineal massage technique:

Take your perineal massage oil such as almond- or olive oil and lubricate your thumbs and your perineum.

  • Place your thumbs 3 to 5cm or an inch inside the vagina. Your fingers can be resting on your buttocks.
  • Press down towards your anus as well as to the sides of the vaginal wall. Hold this stretch for a minute or two.
  • Gently massage your perineum in a rhythmic U-shaped motion. Move from the sides of your vagina downwards to your perineum, and back up again. Do the perineal massage by applying gentle pressure.
  • For starters, a minute may be long enough but with practice, you can massage for up to 5 minutes even. Try to massage the perineum at least two or three times a week.

 

How to do Perineal Massage with Help from Your Partner

Many women find it uncomfortable and impossible to reach the perineum, making it easier for them to have their partners do the massage.

 

Perineal massage technique:

  • Your partner needs to wash his hands and have his nails trimmed.
  • Your partner will use his fingers instead of thumbs.
  • With your partner sitting across from you, place your legs over his legs, while leaning back on a pillow.
  • Everything remains much the same as when you do the massage solo except your partner will use his index finger rather than thumbs.

Be diligent with your massage routine. Your daily bath or shower is a good time to do the massage as the blood vessels in the area are dilated, with the perineum being softer.

In the beginning, before the massage, your perineum will feel tight, but with practice, the tissues relax and stretch. But by following the perineal massage techniques described above, you’re on your way to a childbirth where the chances for tearing has been greatly reduced.

Click here if you would like to read about perineal massage during labor or would like to view good perineal massage videos.

 

References:

  1. NCBI. Perineal massage in the weeks leading up to delivery helps some women avoid episiotomy. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1403252/
  1. Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Women’s views on the practice of prenatal perineal massage. Available at https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2001.00111.x
  1. Journal of Women’s Health, Issues & Care. Antenatal Perineal Massage Improves Women’s Experience of Childbirth and Postpartum Recovery: A Review to Facilitate Provider and Patient Education on the Technique. Available at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0a9d/49ecbbdc710ad0bbe3a35e4a1c7dfa16ee09.pdf
March 28, 2021