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The Lowdown on Prenatal Perineal Massage

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I remember feeling confident in my understanding of prenatal health. After all, I had seven years of university studies and then five years of clinical physiotherapy practice. I was even working in a maternity clinic at the time! And yet, I had never heard of a perineal massage.

Motherhood is like a secret club that’s right under our noses. There are things that you learn about your body and about your world that only come out when you become a mother, and then you find out that within the club, this is common knowledge. Well, today I want to shed some light on one of those things.

What is a perineum?

Let’s start at the beginning. The perineal body (aka central tendon) is found between the vaginal opening and the anus. It feels firmer than the skin and muscle tissue around it, and can be quite sensitive to touch. The perineum is where several pelvic muscles converge. Its claim to fame is when it tears during childbirth.

Note that not all women experience tears during childbirth. It’s often a significant fear for pregnant women but it’s not universal.

Why do a perineal massage

First, although it’s commonly called a massage, most women will tell you that it feels more like a perineal stretching. The technique is used in the late third trimester to stretch the connective tissue and prepare it for childbirth. There is some evidence that this reduces the incidence and severity of tearing.

How to do a perineal massage

If you’ve been given the go-ahead from your maternity care provider, you can start to do a perineal massage. Please do not try this without consulting your care provider since everyone’s health status is different.

  1. You’ll want to use clean hands with short fingernails. You can also wear gloves if you wish.
  2. Get some lubricant and put it on the tip of your thumb of finger.
  3. Insert your thumb or finger into the vaginal opening up to the base of your fingernail. Gently but firmly press down toward your anus.
  4. Hold the pressure once you feel moderate discomfort. The sensation may be stinging, burning, or achy. It should be tolerable. Stay here for 1 minute.
  5. Change the angle of pressure downward and slightly to one side. Hold for 1 minute. Then, angle down and to the other side. Hold for one minute.
  6. Clean up and enjoy the rest of your day!

The whole process will take you about 5 minutes and you can do it once per day.

What if I can’t reach or don’t want to do it myself?

If you’re having difficulties or just don’t want to do this, you can enlist a helper! This may be your partner or a pelvic physiotherapist. This is a good time to find a physiotherapist you can trust so that you’re all set for the postpartum period.

Share your tips

We’d love to know your secret mom club tips for the third trimester! Share on our Facebook page or Instagram.

All information distributed by Vida Health & Wellness is educational only. It does not represent medical advice. For individualized advice, please speak with your preferred healthcare provider.

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