I have recommended perineum preparation to my pregnancy massage clients for years. The suggestion is often met with a mock reaction of fingers in the ears and grimacing but once they know the benefits most expectant mums are happy to give it a go. If the thought makes you feel squeamish too, resist the temptation to click away. It is easy to do and a great way to get ready for your baby’s birth. Get the low- down with my why, when and what of perineum preparation.
What is the perineum?
It is the small area of tissue which extends between the vagina and the anus and connects with the pelvic floor muscles. During birth this area stretches to accommodate delivery of your baby.
Why should I massage my perineum?
Preparing the perineum with massage can help it to stretch more easily during childbirth, reducing the likelihood of perineal trauma, forceps/ventouse delivery, episiotomy and postbirth perineal pain. It also familiarises you with the sensation of stretching you will experience during the birth enabling you to feel more relaxed, which in turn can help you to deliver more comfortably.
Research* has shown benefits and the practice is recommended by maternity departments such as Guys and St Thomas’ London and Oxford Radcliffe Hospital.
It is most useful for first time mums, women over 30 and those with previous scarring.
When should I include the massage?
Ideally begin from week 34 but don’t be discouraged if you have less time, any preparation is good. Try to massage daily for around five minutes. You may find it easiest to perform the massage after a bath or shower when your skin is warm and soft. Read my how-to post for technique.
What other perineum preparation can I do?
To keep your skin pliable and improve its ability to expand without damage good nutrition is important. Research shows that a higher fat intake is significantly associated with increased skin elasticity. Top of the list for maintaining flexibility in the skin are the beneficial essential fatty acids provided by certain oils in our diet:
Omega 3 fatty acids – the best source is fish, mackerel, salmon (preferably wild) and sardines. If you’re not a fish lover, flax, pumpkin and chia seeds, walnuts and leafy greens are also a good source.
Omega 6 obtained from nuts and seeds and cold pressed vegetable oils such as sunflower.
Other nutrients essential for skin tissue health, elasticity and regeneration include:
Vitamins C needed for healthy collagen and elastin. Found in red peppers, potatoes, broccoli, citrus fruits and berries.
Silica strengthens the skin and promotes elasticity and healing. From whole grains, dark leafy greens, leeks, green beans, chickpeas, strawberries, cucumber, mango, celery and asparagus.
For more information take a look at Nom Nom’s Perineum Balm.
Jayne Russell has over twenty years of experience as a pre’ and postnatal massage and nutritional therapist and is the founder of Nom Nom – award winning, certified organic pregnancy and baby skincare. Sign up for your free skincare guide “10 Steps to Super Healthy Baby Skin” at nomnomskincare.com
*References: Beckmann MM, Garrett AJ (2006) Antenatal perineal massage for reducing perineal trauma.
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD005123. OI: 10.1002 /14651858. CD005123.pub