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Community Questions - Perineal Massage

"What is perineum massage? Should I be doing it to prepare for labour?"

'Around 85% of women who give birth vaginally sustain some degree of perineal trauma. Most heal without any problems or adverse effects, but for some women there may be longer term implications. It is thought that massaging the perineum during pregnancy may increase muscle and tissue elasticity and make it easier to avoid tearing during a vaginal birth.' - NHS

Perineum massage is a technique that involves massaging the perineum, the area between the vagina and anus, to prepare for childbirth. The goal is to increase the flexibility and stretchiness of the perineal tissue, which may help reduce the likelihood of tearing or the need for an episiotomy (a surgical cut to widen the vaginal opening during childbirth).

Research suggests that perineal massage can be effective in reducing the risk of perineal trauma during childbirth. The NHS Reports: 'In 2006, Beckmann and Garrett combined the results from four randomised, controlled trials that enrolled 2,497 pregnant women. Three out of the four studies included first time mothers only. All four of the studies were of good quality. The findings were that women who were randomly assigned to do perineal massage had a 10% decrease in the risk of tears that required stitches (‘perineal trauma’), and a 16% decrease in the risk of episiotomy (a surgical cut to the perineum as the baby is born). These findings were only true for first-time mothers. Perineal massage did not reduce the risk of trauma in the group of mothers who had given birth before. However, the mothers in the perineal massage group reported a 32% decrease in ongoing perineal pain at three months after having their baby.'

Perineal massage is typically started at around 35 weeks of pregnancy and it is recommended to do it a couple of times per week. It's important to wash your hands thoroughly before starting the massage and to use a lubricant, to avoid causing any discomfort or injury. It's also important to speak with your midwife before starting perineal massage, as they can provide guidance on how to do it safely and effectively.

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