Perineal massage is commonly done in the last weeks of pregnancy to reduce the chances of perineal tearing or an episiotomy during childbirth. You may wonder if there are benefits to doing perineal massage during the process of labor itself.
During labor, perineal massage is usually done by the midwife. After inserting two fingers into the vagina, the midwife will press downwards towards the rectum and move the fingers side to side at the same time.
There are studies that support perineal massage during labor
The effectiveness of perineal massage while the mother is in active labor (vaginal delivery) has also been established in many studies. Here are a few of the studies that support the use of it during labor:
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends doing perineal massage during labor. In their 2018 guidelines titled, Intrapartum Care for a Positive Childbirth Experience, they concluded that perineal massage and warm compresses may prevent tearing during childbirth. The French national college of obstetricians and gynecologists (CNGOF) also strongly recommend that perineal massage should be done if the mother agrees.
A study "Perineal Massage for Prevention of Perineal Trauma and Episiotomy During Labor: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis" published in 2023, analyzed data from 10 separate studies that included a total of 4,088 women. They found that women with perineal massage during labor had a significantly lower incidence of severe perineal trauma and episiotomies compared with the control group.
A previous large meta-analysis from 2018 confirmed these findings. The study analyzed data collected from more than 3,000 women. They researchers found that the women who had the massage not only had fewer episiotomies, but they also had less trauma to their perineum.