There seems to be a fair amount of controversy on the topic of perineal massage. Some resources say you absolutely must, where others say it makes no significant difference….so…once again we are asked to make a decision that feels right to us, and us alone.
What I can provide is some great research and evidence that will hopefully make that decision a little bit easier for you!
First of all..what exactly is a perineal massage?
Typically, women are taught to spend about 10 minutes per day doing perineal massage, starting at about 34-35 weeks of pregnancy. Women are taught to insert 1-2 lubricated fingers (cut your nails short) about 2 inches into the vagina and apply pressure. First downward for 2 minutes, and then sideways for 2 minutes. The massage can be done by the woman or her partner (because you may not be able to reach anymore:) and sweet almond oil or coconut oil is often used for lubrication.
Why would you do this?
It is thought that massaging the perineum during pregnancy can increase muscle and tissue elasticity and make it easier for a mother to avoid tearing, requiring stitches during a vaginal birth.
Women who were randomly assigned to do perineal massage had a 10% decrease in the risk of tears that required stitches (aka “perineal trauma”), and a 16% decrease in the risk of episiotomy—but these findings were only true for first-time moms.
How often should you do the massage?
It is said that the more frequently women used perineal massage, the less likely they were to see any benefits. Women who massaged an average of 1.5 times per week had a 17% reduced risk of perineal trauma and a 17% reduced risk of episiotomy. Women who massaged between 1.5-3.4 times per week had an 8% reduced risk of perineal trauma.
Interestingly, women who massaged 3.5 times per week experienced NO benefits and had a longer pushing phase of labor by an average of 10 minutes. So basically the finding was: the less frequent the massage, the better off the outcomes.
Here is a video giving you a good visual (on a dummy that is:)
I hope this is helpful!