What is the perineum?
Your perineum is the space between your vagina and anus. This area gets significantly stretched with a vaginal birth and is where you can generally tear.
Why do you massage the perineum?
We have evidence to show that by massaging and stretching the perineal muscles, you can reduce your risk of perineal tears by 9%. This doesn’t sound like much but I don’t know about you but I want to do errrrrrrything I can to minimise my risk of tearing my vagina thank you very much.
When do you start doing this?
It is recommended to begin this around 35-36 weeks gestation. This is when I recommend my patients to come back and see me so I can show you how to do it. We also go through pelvic floor down-training so encourage the pelvic floor muscles to relax to prepare you for labour and birth.
How do you do it?
- Wash your hands thoroughly
- Apply lubricant on your fingers
- Insert 1 finger or your thumb into the vagina about 2-3cm
- Start by pressing your finger outward against the wall (at 3 o’clock) and sweep your finger down to the back passage, applying pressure the whole way through
- Press your finger outward against the opposite wall (9 o’clock) and sweep down towards the back passage, again applying pressure
- Continue sweeping in a ‘U’ shape side to side for 5-10 mins per day.
This will feel a little uncomfortable because you are literally stretching the muscles and the skin. But also work within the range that you can handle and always be guided by your WH physio.
Your partner can get involved and help out as well as this can be a little tricky when you’re so far along in your pregnancy.
I always recommend seeing a Women’s Health Physio before trying this at home so we can educate you how to do it to suit your body.
Disclaimer: This is general information only, ONLY do this if you have been cleared to do so by your Physiotherapist.
Sarah Anderson BExSc, DPT (Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist)