Preparing your vagina for birth – all you need to know about perineal massage
There’s a lot for new mums to consider when preparing for the birth of their baby. However, for mums planning on having a vaginal birth, it’s important to prepare your body and perineum ready for labour.
An effective way to do this is to massage the perineum regularly in the final weeks of pregnancy, to prepare the skin for stretching during childbirth.
Maternal health brand, Lansinoh, in conjunction with experts in the field, has developed a massage technique to help mums-to-be prepare for childbirth. Here, Lansinoh explains more about perineal massage and provides step-by-step instructions for mums-to-be.
What is perineal massage?
Perineal massage involves massaging the area between the vagina and bottom in the weeks leading up to childbirth.
The technique is particularly beneficial in women having their first baby. It involves massaging the skin of the perineum (the area of skin between the vagina opening and anus) to help expand the perineal tissue more easily during birth.
Data  reports that 85% of women will sustain some form of perineal trauma during vaginal delivery. However research also shows that regular perineal massage reduces the likelihood of perineal trauma and ongoing perineal pain .
This can either be performed by mum-to-be herself, or with the help of her partner.
Why is perineal massage important?
Perineal tears and episiotomies require stitching, which can lengthen recovery time after delivery and in some women, can increase the risk of long-term problems. This can have a negative impact on the mother’s wellbeing, delaying post-partum recovery.
Marley Hall, brand ambassador for Lansinoh, and registered midwife and antenatal educator, adds: “I’m a big advocate of perineal massage. Studies have shown that people who do perineal massage several times a week have a much lower chance of significant perineal trauma than those who don’t.
“From my personal experience, I did perineal massage with my last two children and was lucky enough not to tear, which I attribute to the perineal massage.
“And aside from it reducing the risk of trauma, it actually helps with the birth process during the second stage where the baby’s head is gently coming out.
“It also has a knock-on effect for the healing period afterwards. If you don’t have any perineal trauma, you don’t have to worry so much about the way you’re sitting and moving around.”
What are the benefits of perineal massage?
Perineal massage helps to prepare the perineal tissue ready for childbirth. It increases blood flow which helps the tissues and skin stretch a little more easily.
This in turn lowers the risk of tearing during labour. In fact, for every 15 women who do antenatal perineal massage, one woman will avoid an episiotomy and perineal tearing that requires stitches. 
Perineal massage also helps to prepare mothers for birth. By practising antenatal perineal massage, mums-to-be can become familiar with the feeling of stretching when her baby is crowning, so when in the second active stage of labour, she can remember this sensation and feel calmer and in control.
When should you start perineal massage?
You can begin perineal massage from 34 weeks. Lansinoh also has a new Organic Pre-Birth Preparation Oil, to nourish and condition the skin of the perineum and facilitate perineal massage. This can be used 3-4 times per week from 34 weeks of pregnancy.
How to do perineal massage
Lansinoh has developed a proprietary perineal massage technique with a specialist in pelvic floor health, which can be done from the comfort of your own home.
Before starting, make sure your hands are clean and your nails are short. Then make yourself to get yourself into a comfortable position – if your bump is a bit bigger you may find it more comfortable to either sit on the toilet, or stand with one leg raised.
It may be helpful to practice perineal massage during or after a bath/shower, as this causes the blood vessels to dilate, making the perineum softer and more comfortable to touch. Another option is to warm the perineum with a warm compress or water bottle before beginning the technique.
Lansinoh’s step-by-step guide to perineal massage are as follows:
- Firstly, use 2-3 drops of Lansinoh’s Organic Pre-Birth Preparation Oil to start and add more if necessary
- Imagine the vulva is a clock face. 12 o’clock points towards the clitoris 6 o’clock points towards the perineum
- Make small, circular movements either side of your vulva, to warm the tissue.
- Put your thumb or finger 2-3cm into your vagina. Gently stretch the tissue at the vaginal entrance, holding it between your thumb and forefinger.
- Massage from the 6 o’clock to 3 o’clock position, then from the 6 o’clock to 9 o’clock position. Focus on the area at the entrance to the vagina. Take your time and repeat each side 3-4 times. Be gentle but firm enough to work into the tissue.
- Finish with gentle outwards stretches at the 5 and 7 o’clock positions, holding for 30-45 seconds. The 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock positions are important to relax and stretch, allowing the baby to pass through the vagina when crowning. It’s worth noting that a mild prickling sensation is common during perineal massage, however if you experience any sharp or severe pain, or bleeding, then stop and speak to a healthcare professional.
For more information, visit https://lansinoh.co.uk/pages/birth-prep-recovery