Home > Birth > Pregnancy > Do I Really Need To Massage My Perineum Before Labour?

Nearing the end of your pregnancy and feeling all kinds of uncomfortable? Yep, we’ve been there! Those last few weeks can feel like an eternity. Most of the time, you just want to lie out on the sofa and hibernate with a shed load of snacks.

And then suddenly, your midwife presents you with a paper diagram and suggests now is a good time to start stretching your vagina.

*Erm… no thanks! 

But as much as it is 100% the last thing you want to do right now, massaging your bits can help with labour and ease the amount of recovery you have after birth.

Oh… but what even is the perineum? And where do you find it?

Well, to ease your mind and confusion, we’ve caught up with expert Pelvic Health Physiotherapists Emma Brockwell and Claire Bourne to help you navigate the situation.

What is the perineum?

It’s the area between the vagina and the anus, often vulnerable to vaginal tears during childbirth.

Why should we massage it?

“If you were about to take part in a big sporting event, you’d probably spend a long time preparing your body. You’d probably be having massages, physio and you’d be concentrating a lot of your time and effort on stretching and strengthening your muscles – all to prevent injury. But for some reason, even though labour requires a lot of strength and stamina, a lot of us decide to neglect our pelvic area completely and just hope for the best”, says Claire Bourne. “Try not to forget”, she advises, “It’s a good idea to spend some time working out your pelvic floor muscles and stretching your perineum before labour, as this will give your body a better chance at a successful birth with less injury and better recovery”.

When should you start massaging your perineum?

“I would suggest starting around 35 weeks and doing it for around 5 minutes every day or every other day,” says Claire Bourne. “It gets easier, I promise, and each time you do it, you will find you can add a little bit more pressure, or you can do it for a little bit longer”.

What should you use to massage your perineum?
What should you use to massage your perineum?

You want to use a natural oil that is fragrance-free, like vitamin e oil, almond, or olive. It’s important not to affect the natural balance of the vagina. So, using an oil like Nessa’s Vagina Victory Oil, £24, is excellent.

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How do you massage your perineum?

“It may feel a little uncomfortable and can give a slight burning sensation, but it should never hurt”, says Emma Brockwell. Here’s how to do it: 1. Make sure your hands are clean and your nails are short. 2. Place your thumb an inch inside the vagina 3. Gently sweep side to side (left to right) and get your body used to the touch. 4. Next time you massage the area, use your thumb to hold the stretch in position and work your way towards a 60-second hold, starting with a few seconds at first and increasing it each time. 5. You can also start to use two thumbs to work the area as time goes on. *When you do the holds remember to keep breathing”, says Emma Brockwell. Massaging your perineum creates the perfect opportunity to practice your breathing in preparation for birth.

How do you know if you’re doing it right?

“Go easy”, says Claire Bourne. “If this is your first baby, it is unlikely you will have stretched or touched this area in this way before. Your body is a lot more sensitive in pregnancy. You don’t want to cause actual pain to your perineum. It should just feel mildly uncomfortable”—a bit like a challenging yoga pose or a plank you’re holding for a long time.

Do gadgets that stretch your perineum work?

“I’m not convinced”, says Emma Brockwell. “There is little evidence around the use of these tools and their effectiveness. Better to do it yourself or ask your partner”.

Should my partner do it for me?

As your bump grows, it becomes a lot harder to reach your perineum, so yes, in an ideal world, ask your partner. However, a lot of women find this doesn’t really work out for them. Often mums say their partner either a) didn’t take it seriously or b) wanted to quit the massage and skip to having sex. Of course, sex can be great, especially if you’re hoping to bring on labour. But you might not be up for it every night. Instead, we suggest creating a calm environment for yourself. Have a nice bath, light some candles, and play some relaxing music. Then grab some pillows and get into a position that suits you. A lot of women like to use a mirror in front of them to see what they’re doing; some people like to stand up and others say it’s easiest on the loo. Hey, no judgement here, whatever works for you!

I still don’t get it. Is there a video I can watch?

Yep, there certainly is. Watch this video from Nessa featuring Claire Bourne, https://youtu.be/ceOAGdC5njk, and hopefully, the whole thing will become a lot clearer.

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