Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Perineal Massage

Today I want to talk about something a bit uncomfortable...but who are we kidding, there are so many things about pregnancy that can be uncomfortable that most of us are desensitized to it.  In preparation for your baby there are so many things you have done, or will do.  Childbirth classes, register, set up the little ones nursery, assemble baby gear, pack your hospital bag, the list goes on and on.  No where in this list do you see some techniques to prepare the part of your body you will actually be using for delivery; which leads me to perineal massage.

What is perineal massage?
Perineal massage is exactly as it sounds...a massage of the perineal muscles.  The perineal muscles are between the anus and vagina, this area is the perineum.  Stretching and massaging the perineum during the third trimester has been known to reduce the need for episiotomy and reduce the amount of tearing, if any.

In my own experience, and I don’t know if this is the case for all hospitals, they do not do episiotomies where I delivered.   They thought it would be better if I tore on my own.  I see both sides of this; however, I suffered a 4th degree tear that was so bad, 6 months later I am not recovered.  I wish someone had told me about perineal massages.  At the time I probably would have laughed and felt super uncomfortable, but knowing what I know now... I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT! 

Why do a perineal massage?
There are so many benefits to doing a perineal massage.  If you start around 32 weeks or so it gives you plenty of time to help loosen the muscles and stretch the skin.

Here are some of the benefits to perineal massage:
  • Your perineum has more elasticity reducing the likely hood of a tear or episiotomy.
  • You will find that by massaging the area it can prepare you for the sensation of the baby crowing.  It will show you how the stretching will feel during delivery.
  • Believe it or not, any kind of massage can release emotions.  The pressure will bring up certain emotions and will open the door to communication about how you may be feeling.
  • Not only should you massage in the weeks before labor, but also during.  Perineal massage during labor will help the tissues around the baby's head as he or she is crowning. The perineum is super sensitive during birth so it’s helpful to use perineal massage during labor as well as in the weeks prior.
Can my partner do the massage? Or should I do it?
Your partner absolutely can part take in the perineal massaging.  I know for myself, I would feel so funny for numerous reasons.  I know some other moms who feel the same way.  A friend of mine and I were talking about perineal massage and I was telling her the benefits, as she is a first time mom and was unaware.  She said to me “I don’t want my husband to view this as something sexual.”  I completely agree, it can be awkward, uncomfortable, and he may have some fears about perineal massage as well.  “What if I hurt her?” Well, here is the thing...if you keep the lines of communication open between you and your partner you don’t have to worry about these things.  Talk to your partner about how you both are feeling before diving in.

How do I do a perineal massage?
  • First things first, both you and your partner should wash your hands.
  • Find a comfortable place where you feel relaxed to do the massage. 
  • In preparation, apply a warm compress on the perineum for about 10 minutes before massage to help the muscles relax.
  • Sit in a comfortable position.
  • You want to use some lubricant which can be water-soluble lubricant, olive oil, vegetable oil or Vitamin E oil.  Put some on the thumbs and perineum.
  • Place thumbs just inside of the vagina.
  • Press downward towards the rectum and to the sides at the same time until you feel a very slight burning, stinging, or tingling sensation.
  • Hold the pressure for about 1 minute.
  • Breathe deeply and slowly and try your best to relax the muscles.
  • Keep pressing down with the thumb and slowly and gently massage back and forth over the sides of the vagina in a 'U' movement for 3 minutes.
  • Relax and repeat once.
  • Just a note -- You want to avoid pressure at the top of the vaginal opening. Massage gently because a forceful massage could cause bruising or swelling. This is why if your partner is doing the massaging, you must keep the lines of communication open.

As I said before, there is so much benefit to perineal massages.  I wish I had known about perineal massage and it would have helped me so much during my delivery.  Try it out with your partner!

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