Skip to content

Health & Pregnancy

Massage Cuts Need for Episiotomies

Fewer Episiotomies Needed With Pre-Birth Perineal Massage
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 24, 2006 -- Women who massage their perinea before childbirth have fewer episiotomies, according to a new report.

What are perinea? It's one of those body parts nobody knows the name of. The perineum is the muscular area just below the vagina. It's the part of the body that has to stretch during childbirth.

Sometimes the perineum tears during delivery. Minor tears can be painful but rarely lead to lasting problems. But major tears can mean long-term trouble. That's why doctors sometimes make a cut in the perineum -- an episiotomy. However, there's good evidence that routine episiotomies don't help.

Midwives often recommend massaging the perineum during the last weeks of pregnancy. Can it help?

Yes, find Michael M. Beckmann, MD, and Andrea J. Garrett of the QE2 Jubilee Hospital in Queensland, Australia. They analyzed data from three studies of perineal massage.

"Perineal massage during the last month of pregnancy ... undertaken by the woman or her partner for as little as once or twice a week ... reduced the likelihood of perineal trauma (mainly episiotomies) and ongoing perineal pain," Beckmann and Garrett write.

They report their findings in the Jan. 25 online issue of The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

How to Do It

The researchers found that for every 16 women who practice perineal massage, one will avoid needing stitches to repair her perineum after birth. This benefit applied only to women having a first vaginal pregnancy -- although Beckmann and Garrett suggest that women might benefit during later pregnancies, too.

Overall, this group of women who practiced perineal massage had 15% fewer episiotomies than those who did not.

How is it done? The woman herself or her partner can give the massage. These are the instructions given in one of the studies:

"Woman or partner performed daily 5- to 10-minute perineal massage from 34 weeks [of pregnancy]. One or two fingers are introduced 5 centimeters [about 2 inches] into the vagina, applying alternating downward and sideward pressure using sweet almond oil."

Beckmann and Garrett note that there are now "massage devices" for perineal massage. Unfortunately, none of these devices has been studied in clinical trials, so they don't know whether they work as well as manual massage.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
 
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
 
slideshow fetal development
Slideshow
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
Article
 
What Causes Bipolar
Video
Woman trying on dress in store
Slideshow
 
pregnant woman
Article
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
Video
 
healthtool pregnancy calendar
Tool
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
Video