Women all over the world are experiencing postpartum perineal lacerations, also known as vaginal tears during childbirth. These lacerations lead to painful, long-term side effects for the mother. The common treatments are stitching up the laceration and using vulvoplasties to tighten the vagina, yet research suggests that getting perineal massages during the pregnancy can help prevent these very unpleasant postpartum vaginal tears.
The Solution: Perineal Massage Oil
One of the most helpful ways to prevent any injury to the perineum is using perineal massage oil during the pregnancy and in preparing for birth.
The use of these oils helps in make the perineal massage easier during labor, as well as the preparation of the perineum for birth. Women who use olive oil on a daily basis have reported that they experience less pain during labor than women who do not use any type of perineal massage oil.
When should you start perineal massage?
During the last three months of pregnancy, women should perform perineal massage as it helps reduce trauma to the perineum by softening and stretching the skin and muscles in the area. The use of oils makes this process easier and increases blood circulation to the area. There are various different oils that can be used during perineal massage.
Which oil is best for perineal massage?
Pelvic floor exercises, undertaken as part of the antenatal and postnatal period, aim to improve the strength and function of the perineal muscles. Although there is no consensus on the best type or method of massage for these purposes, it is generally thought that the application of oils may ease the massage process. We therefore, aimed to establish which are the most recommended oils for perineal massage.
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Can you use any oil for perineal massage?
Yes, as long as it provides the necessary properties (a lubricating, well-perfused oil).
What oil properties should an ideal perineal massage oil have?
An ideal oil for perineal massage should be a well-perfused lubricant that does not irritate the skin or mucous membranes. It must also have a good safety profile and preferably also be cost-effective.
Can I use coconut oil for perineal massage?
Although you can use any oil, coconut oil is highly recommended and has good properties for this purpose.
What are the advantages of using coconut oil?
It is easily available and cost-effective; it also penetrates the skin well to ensure even distribution of pressure during massage. It is a natural product with no reported adverse effects or contraindications.
What are the disadvantages of using coconut oil?
It has a strong smell, which may not be appreciated by all women – especially when hormone levels rise during the pregnancy.
How can I store coconut oil if I want to use it for perineal massage?
Coconut oil is sensitive to light and heat; therefore, storing it in a dark and cool place (e.g., the fridge) is advisable.
Almond oil for perineal massage
Another widely used carrier oil (as opposed to essential oils) is almond oil. This is a carrier oil that contains vitamins that help to keep the skin hydrated and softens it. It also helps the muscles in the body to relax and reduces stress levels in the massaged area.
This oil has been scientifically tested for use with massage, as it is gentle on the skin and does not clog pores. In fact, it hydrates the skin naturally and the body takes its own time absorbing it, which means that those who use almond oil do not need to wait for a long time before washing off.
This oil is also beneficial for reducing stretch marks and scars on the skin, as well as healing wounds more quickly due to its vitamin E content – which is very concentrated in this carrier oil.
Can I use perineal massage gel instead of oil?
This question may come up in hospitals where oil is not available. Perineal massage gels are water-soluble, so it might be better than using nothing at all. However, there is no definite evidence that perineal massage gel reduces the risk of tearing and episiotomy compared to the use of nothing.
The gel contains perfumes and glycerin, so it may cause vaginal irritation if used frequently.
In addition, using perineal massage gel may not be the right choice if your mucous is very dry.
The benefits of Wheat Germ oil for perineal massage
Wheat germ oil is a dark yellow to brown viscous liquid, known as Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) seed oil. Its main components include fatty acids and vitamin E. Its benefits for the skin in general and for the perineal area specifically are well documented.
Wheat germ oil is also extensively used for perineal massage in midwifery, to deal with the various pains experienced by women during childbirth.
The use of wheat germ oil for perineal massage assists in reducing pain, particularly that linked with contractions and vaginal examinations.
Where do you put the perineal massage oil?
The oil should be massaged between the vagina and anal area. This area is called the perineum, and during childbirth, it is subject to a lot of tension and pressure and is at risk of being torn, or even surgically cut by the doctors if they think it may get torn by the pressure the skin in this area is put under during birth.
Even if there is no tearing, the perineum may be sore afterwards. The oil can help ease this pain by softening and relaxing the skin to make it less vulnerable to tears or cuts.
How can I do perineal massages at home?
Massaging your own perineum is hard to do – especially as your pregnancy develops and makes the perineum even harder to reach. Therefore, it is best to have someone close to you (your partner if possible) give you the massage. This has the added value of strengthening the bond between you and involves your partner in the process and part of the experience of the pregnancy.
Even though it can be difficult to reach the perineum yourself, you might want to do some exercises that will help strengthen the muscles of this area. You can put a little oil on your fingers and massage the inner thighs as well as around this area. As long as you don’t have any cuts or other problems in this area, gentle continual touch will go a long way towards your health in general, and recovery after giving birth.
What position is best for perineal massage?
Since the area of the perineum may be a little harder to reach during pregnancy, and since you may not be comfortable in any possible position, it is recommended that you try a side-lying position first. In this position, you lie on either side with pillows supporting the spine and the hips.
Your perineum will be more easily reachable in this position. You can place your top leg straight out or bend it at the knee to expose the perineal area further.
How often should I do perineal massage during pregnancy?
During your pregnancy, you could have a perineal massage as often as you want to. And during the third trimester, it is recommended at least 3 times a week and even up to once daily, to get the area prepared for the tensions you may experience locally during birth.
Even though different doctors and medical authorities vary in their opinions on the exact number of times per week you should have the massage, if you use an organic natural oil that is known as gentle to the skin, the massage is safe and poses no threat to you or to your unborn baby.
How often should I do perineal massage after birth?
If you’re having your first baby, your perineal muscles may be very tight and this could lead to them being sore after birth. In addition to this, if you tear during labor it’s usual to be stitched up by your OBGYN. This is a good way for new moms to make sure their vagina can return to its original shape.
After your baby is born, perineal massage can be used to help you get back into shape. Perineal massage helps stretch the muscles in the pelvic floor.
If you’re wondering how soon you should do perineal massage after birth, the answer differs depending on who you ask. Some doctors suggest you wait until your postpartum checkup to begin perineal massage or until six weeks after your baby’s birth. However, if you have an infection, this is not recommended because it could spread the bacteria further into your body – in which case you should consult with a professional health care provider with regards to the infection and any irritation you may experience.
The frequency (how often) also depends on your condition and your level of comfort with touch in the area, since it may be tender or painful for some women. Allow yourself to feel your way through it, listen to your body sensations, and only continue if you feel comfortable and at ease with the massage.