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Prenatal Perineal Massage:
the Origins' WayWHY in the world would I want to do that?
Let’s be honest, perineal massage probably doesn’t sound like a good idea. It’s hard to motivate yourself to be committed to do it regularly. Research has shown that performing prenatal perineal massage can reduce your risk of having vaginal trauma at birth as well as several other benefits.
I think of it this way….if someone forced me down into the splits it wouldn’t be pretty! I haven’t stretched those muscles that far in years. My hamstrings would snap in half because I’m not limber enough to stretch that far. However, if I were given the opportunity to stretch everyday for several weeks before hand, my muscles might be strained, but they wouldn’t tear.
Your vagina is made up of several muscle groups. When giving birth they will be stretched farther than they have ever been stretched before. It only makes sense that you would spend time preparing your tissues in advance.
You can do it yourself, but most women report that it’s easier to have your partner help you. Have your partner start by using their index finger and apply gentle continuous downward pressure from 9 O'clock to 3 O'clock as shown in the diagram, for the first week. The second week they can use both their index and middle fingers and carefully begin increasing the pressure. Perineal massage should be uncomfortable but not painful. You both will notice that over time it becomes easier and more tolerable.
At Origins Birth and Wellness the midwives recommend, starting at 36wks gestation, having a nightly routine to help you stay devoted. The vagina is very forgiving and will return to its original state if you do not perform your massage at least five days a week. Take a warm bath with your labor music playing. Use this time to visualize your labor and birth. The warm water will help your tissue become supple and soft. After you get out of the bath lay in the bed while you continue to have your music playing in the background. Start by performing the massage with a lubricant (like coconut oil, vitamin e oil, or olive oil) through one song. Eventually work up to massaging through several songs for a total of 10-15mins. Use the time you are massaging to practice relaxing into the discomfort. Your partner will be able to communicate to you when you are tense versus being relaxed. Their guided relaxation coaching will have many different benefits. Not only will it help your perineum become more elastic, it will also help you in labor to surrender to the process of giving birth. It also helps your mind connect with your body to stay as relaxed as possible as you ease your baby out. Resisting the urge to tense up will allow your tissues to open and stretch more easily around your baby’s head.