Vaginal Massage Can Reduce Some Childbirth Pain and Procedures
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.
"Sometimes women experience a small tear if an episiotomy is not done,
which is easily stitched and heals quickly. However, no tears and no episiotomy
is even better, and can happen if the [health care] provider supports the
perineum at birth," Sonnenstuhl says. "This is beneficial to the woman
[and results in] a smoother recovery from her baby's birth."
"Internal trauma affects women's physical, psychological, and social
well-being in the immediate post-natal period, as well as in the longer
term," Johanson writes. While he believes "the clinician's own
preferences in practice may substantially influence the rate and severity of
[internal] trauma," Sonnenstuhl says, "recovering from an episiotomy is
"Current evidence supports the use of [internal] massage in women
completing their first pregnancy and also [limiting] the use of episiotomy in
both [first births as well as second and third]," Johanson writes. He says
that the massage technique is "promising" and generally "not
Sonnenstuhl suggests that women discuss the value of perineal massage with
their doctor or midwife.
- For pregnant women, a massage technique can significantly decrease the rate
of trauma and injury to internal tissue and reduce the need for an
- The massage technique should be performed daily, beginning at week 35, and
involves 10 minutes of gentle stretching of the internal tissue using oil
- Most of the pregnant women who tried the technique, according to a recent
study, would repeat it in subsequent pregnancies and would recommend it for