It felt like a sunburn when I gave birth. Yes, that’s right. A sunburn inside of me and stretching like my body had never known before. And when it got more intense and I focused on what was happening, it was all familiar because of the perineal massages for birth and pelvic floor training I had done in the 4 weeks prior as well as everything else I had done to prepare for a natural birth during pregnancy.
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Flashback…I sat anxiously in a back room by myself with a bottle of oil next to me while my husband played with our oldest in another room. I had to find time to prepare for birth and the sensation of passing a baby through my vagina terrified me. So I worked through doing perineal massage by myself and with my husband when we could squeeze (no pun intended) in the minutes.
Before my homebirth, I did everything in my power to prepare myself for a natural birthing experience. While I did much of the same things before my first birth, it got more serious this time around. So not only did I do basic massages of the perineum and vagina wall, I found an Epi-No to work the sensations of birthing. (Note: epi-nos are not sold in the US and they are not to be used with oils.)
And when I finally had my natural birth I was SO GLAD I DID THESE EXERCISES! It helped my understand on a basic level what would be encountering so I could work through it when the big day arrived. While the sensations are not
While the sensations are not an exact one to one experience, it was similar enough it helped me understand what I was doing and what i needed to be doing to birth my baby.
Is Perineal Massage in Pregnancy Safe?
Absolutely. Studies show that while it may not help with tearing, perineal massage certainly helps with postnatal pain reduction.
However, you should talk to your care provider before starting and you should also not implement it until 4-6 weeks before your expected due date.
First and foremost you need to find a place in your home that’s comfortable and disruption free.
Next, make sure that you (and your partner if helping) have washed hands and trimmed fingernails.
Finally, get some pillows and a great oil (olive, evening primrose, coconut, almond, or a special designed oil like listed below) and try to relax.
Tutorial: how it is done
Set yourself up in a semi-sitting position in your bed, on the couch, or wherever you have found a private and comfortable area. Make sure you add a clean towel underneath since oils will be involved.
Use lubrication and start gently massaging the perineum and the lower vaginal walls. I along, with many women find it easier to use my thumbs on myself, but if someone is helping a finger or two together will probably do just fine.
Then you can start stretching. insert about 2 inches inside the vaginal opening and start pressing towards the rectum. When actually giving birth, it will feel somewhat like bearing down for a bowel movement. And if you’re like me, you might think that the initial sensation to start pushing the baby out feels like you need to poop. Therefore, all the pressure is going to be from back to front and that’s the skin you would like to elasticize as best as possible prior to having your baby.
Maintain steady pressure and start moving from side to side to work the stretching motion. Keep doing this until you feel a slight burning or stinging. This is the perfect time to practice your relaxation techniques for the natural childbirth course.
Focus on breathing and maintaining relaxation in all parts of your body. This includes your jaw, your forehead, and of course your lower region as well.
If someone is helping you, have them try to notice and help with identifying which parts of your body are tense. They can give you verbal cues to relax what’s tense. Over time you can also learn to respond to a soft touch.
Continue the massage but never go past the slight burning or tingling sensation. Because you will do this daily, the tingling sensation will start happening after you have stretched further and further.
Don’t push your limits trying to do too much at once. It’s a process!
If you are in Europe or have access to an Epi-No, they are a great way to train your muscles for both stretching and giving birth. But in the US, the closest product would be kegel balls which might still help, but are entirely different because they don’t inflate!
If not, during your perineal massage you can practice with your partner the sensation of pushing and relaxing to give birth. By inserting a couple of fingers, you can then tighten and kegel around the fingers. Relax and feel how when you release your tensions , you can gently push the fingers out.
You might also want to practice pulling up so that you know what it feels like both pushing out and pulling up.
Finally, insert one or two evening primrose oil capsules deep into the vagina and at the cervix. It will help thin the cervix in the last weeks before delivery.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!