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Childbirth: Perineal Massage Before Labor

Topic Overview

In women, the perineum is the muscle and tissue between the anus and the vulva. During childbirth, the perineum stretches and sometimes tears. One way to help prevent tearing is to stretch and massage the perineum for a few weeks before your due date.

Studies show that women who did regular perineal massage reported less perineal pain in the weeks after childbirth. Women having their first vaginal delivery also had lower rates of episiotomy.1

How to do perineal massage

Starting at week 34 of your pregnancy, take about 5 minutes to massage your perineum, three to four times a week. The goal is to get the muscle and tissue used to stretching. At first, it may burn and feel uncomfortable. But this will get better after a few massage sessions.

  • Sit with your legs apart and your back supported. You might want to have a hand mirror handy, so you can see your perineum. Or your partner can do the massage for you.
  • Put some massage oil on your fingers. (Or you can use a water-soluble vaginal lubricant, such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly.)
  • Place a thumb or finger about 2 in. (5.1 cm) into your vagina, and use it to gently stretch the wall out to the side. Call this 3 o'clock.
  • Still pressing and stretching outward, sweep down to 6 o'clock and over to 9 o'clock.
  • Repeat for a total of 4 or 5 minutes.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Beckmann MM, Garrett AJ (2006). Antenatal perineal massage for reducing perineal trauma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised November 2, 2011

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