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Vaginal Massage Can Reduce Some Childbirth Pain and Procedures

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WebMD Health News

Jan. 20, 2000 (Minneapolis) -- If you're pregnant and would like to experience less pain during childbirth, raise your hand. OK, that's just about everyone. But if the pain of delivery isn't enough, 85% of you will also suffer some form of internal trauma -- most requiring suturing of the delicate tissue around the vagina. The good news is that there is a way to help prevent some of these procedures and pains of childbirth.

Several recent studies have concluded that conditioning the tissues around the vaginal opening with massage prepares the birth canal to perform. And the better a woman prepares her internal tissues for the stretching of birth, the less they will tear, and the better they will heal.

A massage technique performed for 10 minutes daily beginning at week 35 has shown promise in studies of thousands of women. The technique, which involves gentle stretching of the internal tissues using oil lubrication, can significantly decrease the rate of injury and trauma from delivery. In some cases, it may also eliminate the need for episiotomy -- an incision near the vagina to allow ease of delivery. Women should "discuss the massage technique with their clinician, especially in first pregnancies" where the technique has shown to be of most benefit, according to Richard Johanson, MD, of the North Staffordshire Maternity Hospital in England.

The massage method has been well received by pregnant women who have used it. "About 80% of women studied said they would repeat massage in any subsequent pregnancy and nearly 90% said that they would recommend it to another pregnant woman," Johanson says.

Research data has also shown that restricting the use of episiotomy not only reduces the risk of excessive blood loss, but also the risk of future problems including pain, urinary incontinence, and infection.

"Research supports the assumption that [internal] massage and not doing an episiotomy provides a more comfortable recovery with no change in damage to perineal tissues [tissues between the vagina and the rectum]," Pat Sonnenstuhl, ARNP, tells WebMD. Sonnenstuhl is a nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwife in private practice in Olympia, Wash.

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