If you're in your last trimester of pregnancy, chances are you've heard about perineal massage. There are no guarantees but perineal massage is said to prevent tearing and the need for an episiotomy. So how does it work?

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What is perineal massage?

It is the practice of gently stretching the skin between the vagina and the anus in order to condition the tissue for childbirth.  The theory is that perineal massage makes the perineum more supple and stretchable, so it is less likely to tear during labor. It’s also reported that women who practice perineal massage daily in the last six weeks of pregnancy experience less of a stinging sensation during the crowning stage of labor and are less likely to need an episiotomy.

Is it safe?

As with any complementary or alternative therapy you try during pregnancy, it's best to check with a healthcare professional before you try perineal massage. If you have a history of preterm labor, have had a premature rupture of membranes, have a vaginal infection or if the massage makes you sore or uncomfortable, it might not be right for you. For most women, perineal massage is safe as long as they use adequate lubrication and avoid excessive force.

When is the best time to start perineal massage and what do you need to do it?

Begin perineal massage around 34 to 35 weeks into your pregnancy. You'll need:

  • Thoroughly scrubbed hands, with neatly trimmed nails.
  • An edible oil (many practitioners recommend vitamin E oil or olive oil), a water-soluble.
  • lubricant or NIVEA Soft Oil with Avocado extract.
  • A clean towel.
  • A mirror for guidance during the first few massages.

How do you do it?

  • After your bath, sit back on a towel in a comfortable position.
  • Apply oil or lubricant to your hands and around your perineum.
  • Put your thumbs about one to one and a half inches (three to four centimeters) into your vagina.
  • Press firmly but gently downward towards your rectum, until you feel a little tingling.
  • Hold this stretch until the area begins to feel a numb ( for around two minutes).
  • Maintaining steady pressure, gently move the thumbs back and forth  along the sides of your vagina.
  • Continue for around three to four minutes, being careful to avoid your urethra (urinary opening).

Perineal massage can be repeated once or twice daily. After about a week, you'll probably notice the increased stretchiness of your perineum.

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