Our bodies are AMAZING! People often ask, how does a baby get out of such a small hole?! That must be a lot of stretching? But something INCREDIBLE about our vaginas, is that they don’t ‘stretch’ at all! Hundreds of folds of tissue inside the birth canal, draw open (a little like a draw string purse) to allow our babies to fit through perfectly! The only bit of our anatomy that does any ‘stretching’ is the Perineum. (That’s the area of skin and muscle between your vagina and your anus) and something that almost all mums *wince* at the thought of tearing.
Research has shown that for first time mums, using ‘perineal massage’ from 34 weeks, reduces vaginal tearing and reduces the risk of an episiotomy. (There’s not been a ton of research on second time mums, but may still be worth a go! The good news is, if you’ve given birth before, your risk of tearing is reduced anyway!).
At this time in pregnancy we have a huge surge in the hormone Relaxin, which causes all the tissues, muscles, skin and ligaments in our body to soften or loosen, our bodies' perfect natural preparation for birth!
The idea of perineal massage can be a bit weird and uncomfortable at first, but it’s an amazing way to get comfortable with our bodies before the big day arrives!
So how do you do it?
Firstly, about three times a week!
A good time to try is after a bath, where you’ll be warm, relaxed and have clean hands!
Apply some oil to your fingers or thumb, and to the perineum itself. (Simple olive oil will do! Not the chilli infused kind 😳)
Insert two fingers or a thumb an inch or so into the vagina and press gently, but firmly down towards the anus. Repeat this for around a minute or so working your way around the lower half of the vagina.
Next, gently ‘stretch’ the skin and muscle by parting your fingers both from the inside and on the outside skin. (This shouldn’t hurt but might feel slightly ‘stingy’, if you want to check what it might feel like pop two fingers on your lip now 👄 and stretch it slightly, that’s the sensation you’re aiming for!)
Repeat this for around ten minutes each time.