Guest post by Lucy Woodbridge, creator of Butterbean – the online birth prep platform for expectant parents.
Perineal Massage: a personal experience
When I gave birth in 2021, I did very little preparation. I didn’t know anything
about colostrum harvesting or perineal massage. I knew the basics about birth and what might happen – I was adamant that I would have a pain free, unmedicated birth.
I was induced at 40 weeks and what followed was four days in hospital ending with a spinal block, episiotomy - my baby was born with forceps in theatre. I was left shocked at what had happened to me. My pregnancy was low risk, I was complication free yet I ended up having a high risk birth and was very close to needing an emergency cesarean section.
In the 2 years since I had the episiotomy, my pelvic floor has suffered. I have experienced incontinence and have struggled to build back the strength I once had in my pelvic muscles. An episiotomy is a cut through the pelvic floor to enable more room – in my case this was for the forceps to go in.
I believe, that my lack of preparation is the reason my birth veered so far away from my original plan. I didn’t understand the pros and cons of medical interventions which meant I didn’t advocate for myself. I certainly didn’t understand how preparing my body in advance would help me. I didn’t even consider the benefits of perineal massage, I thought that tearing was inevitable and was just part of the birth package.
For me, perineal massage was difficult and this is why I gave up so quickly. I couldn’t reach, I didn’t like using my hands because sometimes my nails would cause some discomfort and I found the whole process messy. The oil goes everywhere, all of your hands, your sheets. I know many women who have had similar experiences with perineal massage – if you can relate then please don’t feel bad about not loving it!
In hindsight, I wish I had done perineal massage in the later stages of pregnancy. If you’re reading this and you’re pregnant, I know doing the massage may feel strange but I promise it’ll reduce your chances of tearing and it’ll help you to understand your body and your own vagina.
My experiences of preparing for labour inspired me to set up a new platform for pregnant women to prepare their mind AND their body for birth. I named the support service after my daughter Ivy. She looked just like a butterbean at our first scan and so that is what the website is called – butterbean! Within my support services I include birth prep and lots of handy guides. One of our guides is all about perineal massage – the benefits and how to get started. We also cover incredible facts such as the power of oxytocin and how this can also reduce your chances of tearing. Your baby’s head pushing on your pelvic floor releases a huge shot of oxytocin and this fans out your perineal muscles in readiness for the head to be born. Imagine the power of your natural hormones coupled with perineal massage prep. Your chances of tearing would be very, very low! Since our launch in 2022, thousands of parents have benefited from our services in over 50 countries!
3 reasons you might find perineal massage uncomfortable
Now, as I’ve said, I found perineal massage uncomfortable. Here are 3 reasons why:
First and foremost, the term "massage" can be misleading. Perineal massage is not akin to a relaxing spa massage. Instead, it involves the sensation of gently stretching or ‘massaging’ the perineal tissues. It’s important to understand this so you know what to expect.
The technique of perineal massage requires inserting fingers into the vaginal canal and gently massaging from the inside out. However, many women find this technique unusual and, at times, uncomfortable – just like I did.
Additionally, performing perineal massage can pose physical challenges, especially for pregnant women with growing bellies. Reaching around the bump and applying adequate pressure can be demanding on the arms and require substantial effort. This can mean that many women try and just can’t reach!
Perimom: the solution I WISH I knew about!
In hindsight, I discovered a product that could have made my perineal massage journey much easier – the Perimom. This innovative tool serves as an extension of your hand and is designed with both comfort and functionality in mind. If I had known about Perimom, I would have prepared my body properly because it would have been easy! But why is Perimom so clever!?
The Perimom boasts an ergonomic design, ensuring ease of use and a comfortable grip. This design element is especially valuable during pregnancy when manoeuvring can be cumbersome. For me, this would have helped me to reach around my bump to carry out the massage with ease.
Smooth Tip and Oil Channel
What sets the Perimom apart is its smooth tip, which minimises discomfort during use. Additionally, the tool features an oil channel, streamlining the process of applying perineal oil without creating a mess. As I mentioned earlier in this article – the mess was an issue for me because it was annoying. The Perimom would have solved this issue for me.
The Verdict: My Recommendation
If you're an expectant mother reading this, I wholeheartedly recommend exploring the Perimom. While my personal experience with traditional perineal massage left something to be desired, I believe that the Perimom's ingenious design could have made a significant difference.
Perineal tears during labour can be a source of anxiety for expectant mothers. However, perineal massage offers a proactive approach to reducing the risk of tears and minimising the need for stitches. While the massage itself can be unconventional and challenging, innovative solutions like the Perimom provide a promising alternative. Ultimately, every mother's journey is unique, but embracing preventive measures can contribute to a positive birthing experience.
Butterbean – Online Hypnobirthing Course
This article was produced by Lucy Woodbridge, creator of Butterbean – the online birth prep platform for expectant parents. Whether you’re looking to learn about your incredible body, get expert advice or just join a community of like-minded mums – we’ve got you covered. You can find out more by visiting www.butterbean.uk