You Want Me to Massage My What?

Many of us have heard of the ring of fire that engulfs the vulva when the baby’s head is crowning and stretching your vagina in ways you never imagined possible.

Massaging your perineum can sometimes help prevent some of the discomfort, tearing or ripping and, possibly, the need (in some cases) to have an episiotomy during the delivery of a baby. An episiotomy is an incision made by a medical provider when they feel: the labor is not progressing; serious tearing seems very likely to occur; or the baby needs to be delivered quickly because of a medical condition (i.e., the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck). According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, 40-85% of women who have vaginal deliveries will tear and about two-thirds of those women will need stitches. For those who are unclear where their perineum is, it is the area between the bottom of your vagina and the anus. This area is sometimes referred to as “the taint.”

Some women are encouraged by their doctors or midwives to massage this area, starting approximately 4-6 weeks before their due date, to help the skin become more pliable for the incredible amount of stretching it will endure during delivery. If you are interested in performing this type of massage you should consult with your healthcare provider on how to properly perform the procedure. They may prescribe a specific lubricant, like KY Jelly or natural oils like vitamin E or olive oil.

Bottom line: The jury is still out if whether perineal massage significantly reduces tearing or the need for an episiotomy. Midwifes and women who have performed the massage prior to delivery state that it greatly reduces vaginal trauma. The midwives in the practice I’m going to swear by it, which is good enough for me. If it doesn’t work then there was no harm done, and if it does then I will be extremely thankful that my precious perineum does not have stitches in it for 6-8 weeks after delivery. Ouch!!

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