There are several reasons why pregnant women seem to shy away from doing perineal massage:
- women have too little information about how to perform perineal massage once pregnant bodies become difficult to work around
- women lack confidence that they are “doing it right”
- women lack information about the benefits of perineal massage for keeping their perineal tissues healthy for the rest of their lives
Addressing some of the common concerns women have with perineal massage and how to navigate these issues can help ensure success. The information on this site is meant to help empower you with the information to make a great choice for your body.
Here are some of the difficulties that women report when practicing perineal massage, and some solutions for you to try.
Long Fingernails: Unless you plan on having your partner do all the massage, the nails really do have to go. Besides you will want to have shorter nails with a newborn anyway. Better chance for less pain after childbirth and a more satisfying sex life versus long nails?? Come on Ladies!
Proper Technique : The first few times you do perineal massage it will seem so simple you will feel certain you are doing it wrong. Do what feels right to you. There are lots of different positions you can try such as reaching from behind with one foot raised in the shower. Remember, the important thing is stretching, massaging and feeling that burn, however you need to get there.
Partner Apathy: If your partner doesn’t seem enthused about doing the massage don’t take it personally. Remind your partner there isn’t really a wrong or right way (other than something super rough), and that any massage is better than no massage. But, doing perineal massage together takes a lot of communication to stretch the perineum enough to feel the burn without you wanting to throw a punch! And sometimes it is just boring to do. Find the right mix of partnered versus solo perineal massage for your house.
For partnered perineal massage try not to do the massage while watching TV (because less active work gets done if either party is distracted). Once your partner starts feeling the tissues relax and soften over the first few weeks, it can be motivational to think about better sex after the baby is born! That said, perineal massage is uncomfortable and not usually a turn on for the pregnant woman. If perineal massage turns into love making – nothing wrong with that, just give yourself a little time to transition from feeling clinical about your vaginal area to sexual.
Fingers Sticking to the Vaginal Lining: The most widely recommended massage product for perineal massage in the past has been almond oil. But almond oil is sticky, it also doesn’t work well in the shower and it can have high levels of contaminating reactive oxygen products that trigger vaginal irritation. In general, oils increase rates of vaginal infection, and although they are often recommended for perineal massage, there is no data supporting their safety during vaginal massage. In fact, one study from Italy with women using almond oil for pregnancy massage showed a negative effect on birthing outcomes. Use a gel such as BabyIt™ that is isotonic to the vagina and contains no parabens or coating oils.
Feeling Ridiculous and Ashamed: It may feel awkward touching yourself this way, and you may want to lock your partner out of the bathroom while you experiment. I suggest getting a mirror to study yourself and have one hand try the massage while you hold the mirror and watch with the other hand. Although perineal massage isn’t particularly sexy, motherhood is very sexy and empowering, so put on some soft music, practice deep breathing and focus on the fact that by doing perineal massage you are doing the best you can to have the safest, most healthy outcome possible for you and your baby.
Feeling Irritation: A moderate burning sensation during the massage as you press towards the back of the perineum is normal, especially in the first two weeks. Extreme pain is a sign to lessen the pressure, and is something you should discuss with your health care professional in case there are anatomical problems they should know about. Burning that lasts after the massage may be triggered by massage products or lubricants that were used. Although many perineal massage sites suggest the use of KY Jelly or Astroglide, these water-soluble lubricants have a high ion (salt) concentration and have been shown to cause severe irritation and even damage of the cells lining the vagina. Of course, using such products every day can cause burning and irritation for some women.