Bump Blog: Does perineal massage really help labour?

Week 30: "Your baby's about 15.7 inches long now and weighs almost 3 pounds (about the size of a large cabbage)... thanks to hormonal changes, your ligaments are more lax, so your joints are looser, which may also contribute to your balance being a bit off. Also, this relaxation of your ligaments can actually cause your feet to spread permanently, so you may have to invest in some new shoes in a bigger size."

Before we all start cheering "YAAAAY, new shoes!" there is something else that needs loosening in the coming weeks (what a segue)... and that is the perineum. Indeed, folks, we are returning to Bump Blog with a bang this week with a TMI special that needs addressing.

Some of you may be aware of the practise of perineal massage in the weeks before labour, or you may be more of the "What in the name of jaysis do I have to do now? And for 10 minutes a day?!" mindset. Either way, this post is hoping to start a discussion on whether it actually works or not - although I won't be entirely surprised if there are zero comments left.

I was introduced to perineal massage during a "active birth workshop" on pregnancy number one (you know, when there was a more time/disposable cash doing the rounds, yaddah, yaddah). It hadn't been made reference to in any antenatal classes I'd attended, or conversations with rellies or friends who'd experienced childbirth. There had been a passing mumble of "I hope you're rubbing in your sweet almond oil down there", which was to be expected, but I'd no idea just how, eh, in-depth the procedure had to be.

Our teacher dutifully handed around diagrams of what needed to happen and the best positions in which to undertake the practise. For those with more sizeable bumps who may have issues reaching, she casually mentioned that she enlisted her partner to help her and they found it a pleasant "bonding" experience. Each to their own, but - for me - this would definitely have to be a solo project.

So, what does it involve? Here are some tips.


1: Sit in a warm bath for at least ten minutes to help your body (and mind) relax.
2: Ensure you have clean clipped thumb nails.
3: Get into a comfortable position - usually sitting on a bed, with your back upright (supported by pillows) and your knees bent.
4: Make sure you have a water-soluble lubricant to hand - such as olive oil, vitamin E oil, or sweet almond oil.
5: Then, when you're ready, insert both your thumbs "approximately 1 inch inside your vagina... Press downwards and to the sides of the vaginal wall. Hold your thumbs in this position for about one minute. You will begin to feel a slight burning or stretching sensation."

6: "Use a U shaped movement by going back and forth, and up and down... Perform this motion for two to three minutes."
7: Then you repeat the massage. According to wikihow: "By the end, you should spend about 10 minutes on the massage. It may take up to several weeks of this daily massage before you notice that your perineal area has more elasticity."

If the thought of quite literally sitting on your thumbs for 10 minutes a day doesn't appeal to you, there is a product on the market called the EPI.NO. It works under the premise of inserting a rubber ballon into the vagina and inflating it over a period of weeks (usually 6 weeks prior to your due date) to help you avoid an episiotomy on D Day.

Did I personally engage perineal massage on my first pregnancy? Nope. Sure I barely engage with the mandatory pelvic floor exercises such is the laziness. Also, some part of my subconscious seemed to know I was destined for an emergency C section. As for this time around, it is something I'm considering doing - but only if it's worth it (ten minutes of alone time when you're a mum is precious and I'd prefer to spend it grabbing that elusive shower or in front of Corrie if at all possible). Of course, all deliveries are different, all babies heads are different sizes etc, so there's absolutely no guarantee that perineal massage will stop you from having an episiotomy, but it has to help, right?

Is there ANYONE out there who reaped the benefits of this massage? Or are we better off putting our thumbs to better use?


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