Note: This post is NOT for everyone. I will be talking about the perineum and preventing perineal tears during Childbirth. If this is not interesting or relevant for you, check on the left side of my blog and I'm sure you will find a topic that is more your speed.
Okay, lets get down and dirty. Honestly, I didn't give much thought to "perineal massage" during my first pregnancy. I heard about it in my Bradley Class and was even given a worksheet with directions on how to do it. But, I never tried it.
In retrospect, it wouldn't have helped my situation anyway. My Midwife had to get my baby out FAST. We realized that after almost 2 1/2 hours of pushing my daughter had her hand tucked next to her chin AND that there was a ton of meconium in my waters.
My Midwife performed a procedure which she had only done twice in 25 years of catching babies. I was purposely torn to get my baby out quickly. No amount of perineal massage could have helped with that situation.
But, luckily that is a rare case.
There has been a small amount of research done on how effective perineal massage is on preventing tears and episiotomies. You can find more information about one study here.
It appears that first-time Mamas, over the age of 30, benefit the most from perineal massage.
Once you've had an episiotomy or torn, the scar tissue is weaker and more likely to tear again. But, there is some hope for us, second-time Mamas...I'll be trying these exercises starting out at 34 weeks.
I have begun spending as much time as possible squatting. Whenever I am on the computer, I put my laptop on a chair and squat while I'm writing. Yup, I'm squatting right now. Besides building up my leg strength, this helps stretch out my scar-tissue.
Let me tell you, healing from a 3 1/2 degree tear was HARD. I used a wheel-chair to get around for the first 5 days, popped Percocet for 2 weeks, had to use a donut pillow to sit down for the first 6 weeks and it HURT to squat for about 3 months. I was completely unprepared for the pain I experienced during my Post-partum Recovery.
So, my point is...do everything you can to avoid an episiotomy or a bad tear!!! If you are a first-time Mama, over the age of 30, I would definitely recommend trying perineal massage beginning at 34 weeks. Here is how to do it.
Hope this helps...Best of luck!