If you're pregnant and preparing for labor and childbirth, odds are you've heard of perineal massage. If you haven't, don't feel bad, most who have heard of it are still unclear on what it is, why they want to do it, or how to.
*Please be sure to check with your medical provider prior to beginning this technique*
Perineal massage performed 3 times per week for no greater than 10 minutes per session starting around 35 weeks of pregnancy has been shown to reduce the likelihood of grade III and IV perineal tearing, subsequent anal leakage postpartum, and persistent pelvic pain following childbirth.
Side note for all you over achievers: It doesn't actually seem that doing it more frequently is better. Some research has shown that increasing frequency of perineal massage past a few times a week can reduce the benefit!
One major goal of perineal massage is not only to stretch the pelvic floor muscles and skin, but also to improve your ability to keep this part of your body relaxed while experiencing an uncomfortable stretch sensation. While perineal massage should never hurt, you want to use this opportunity to practice your breathing. This technique should always be performed in a comfortable, safe setting and can be done independently or with the help of a partner.