Prepare to Push!
In your final few weeks of pregnancy, you may want to think about buying a good quality oil, to try perineal massage. Many antenatal classes recommend this as a good way for mums-to-be to prepare for birth.
The small area called the Perineum (between the vagina and the anus) plays a significant role in women’s health. The muscular tissue of the perineum connects with pelvic floor muscles, offering support to the pelvic organs. Tearing of the perineum during childbirth can weaken this support, making later pelvic floor problems more likely.
First time mothers in particular can be extremely anxious about the possibility of tearing during birth or needing an episiotomy, and that fear can work against them during labour. Good antenatal support through classes or a group can help with this anxiety, and massaging the perineum with a top quality and pure oil helps relax the cellular matrix and keep the connective tissues supple and elastic - our best defence against tearing. Massage also increases the perineum’s capacity to stretch more easily and less painfully during birth. Regular perineal massage has been shown to improve the skin’s elasticity and reduce perineal trauma. Studies* examining the effects of perineal massage during pregnancy confirm that “timely and regular perineal massages reduce the likelihood of perineal tearing or cutting during childbirth”.
Furthermore, through massage, a mother can quite literally get in touch with her pregnant body and understand its capabilities, so the prospect of labour becomes a little less daunting.
Interested to know more?
In this most delicate of areas, you wouldn’t want to use just any massage oil. Nourishing plant oils would be the no.1 choice, free from potentially irritating artificial additives. Massage a little oil onto the skin of the perineum using your fingers or thumbs. Then place your fingers approximately 5cm (2") inside your vagina and gently but firmly press or pull downwards (towards the anus), moving to the left and right in a U-shaped stretching movement. This may give a tingling or slight burning sensation. Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds then release. The feeling is similar to what you will feel when your baby's head is crowning. Just massage for 5 minutes or so and take things at your own pace. Try perineal massage 3-4 times a week in your final few weeks of pregnancy. You could try first using a mirror until you feel comfortable that you have found a technique to suit you. A good time is after a relaxing bath or warm shower because blood vessels in the area are dilated and this makes the perineum softer and more comfortable to touch.
Which oil to try?
Weleda’s Perineum Massage Oil (£7.95 50ml) has been dermatologically-tested for skin tolerance for this sensitive area and contains 100% natural ingredients and pure plant oils carefully selected for suitability for the perineum. The oil is NATRUE-certified genuinely natural and is free from mineral oils and artificial additives. Nourishing Sweet Almond oil is prized for its mildness, and makes the skin supple and flexible. This fine oil is renowned for being well tolerated by all skin types, and Weleda source theirs from organic orchards that stretch over 100,000 acres of the Valencian countryside in Spain. Almond is combined with precious Wheat Germ Oil, which again has a softening effect on the skin, and is rich in Vitamin E and unsaturated fatty acids to increase skin elasticity. The finishing touch is a mix of carefully selected essential oils suitable for the final few weeks of pregnancy. Clary Sage (Caliva Sclarea) adds a gentle aroma and contains the natural component Sclareol which relaxes the tissues of the perineum. Together with the marzipan-mellowness of the almond oil, the fragrance remains subtle and is ideal for pregnancy when our sense of smell is often heightened and we tend to steer away from overpowering or synthetic fragrances. Developed with doctors and midwives, this relaxing oil is a great way for mums to nurture themselves, and prepare for birth. It is recommended from the 34th week of pregnancy. www.weleda.co.uk
** Source: Labreque, Eason, Marcoux et al 1999, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (MIDIRS 1999, 9, 452); Shipman, Boniface, Tefft et al 1997, British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (MIDIRS 1997).