Is perineal massage safe? As with any complementary or alternative therapy you try during pregnancy, it's best to check with your healthcare provider before beginning perineal massage. According to Dr. Anderson, perineal massage could be harmful if done improperly, and it's important to use adequate lubrication and avoid excessive force.
Plumbo adds that she would caution a woman against perineal massage if she has a history of preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes, a vaginal infection, if the massage induces contractions, or even if the procedure simply makes her sore or uncomfortable.
Finally, if you do try perineal massage, keep in mind that birth is unpredictable by nature. Tears do often happen, and episiotomies sometimes become necessary, even during highly prepared-for births.
I tried perineal massage during my first pregnancy. I was happy to be doing something proactive as I waited—endlessly, it seemed—for the birth of my son. His delivery was easy, and afterwards, I would have recommended perineal massage to anyone.
At around the same time as I was expecting my little boy, Amy Kameda-Smith* was expecting a girl. She didn't try perineal massage. "For exercise, I stuck to water aerobics—and night time aerobics!" laughs Kameda-Smith, an Atlanta-area mom of one. She, too, had a happy birth experience and wouldn't change a thing.
In the end, both approaches were fine. "Perineal integrity has more to do with race, parity, age, and overall state of health than it does to perineal massage," says Plumbo.
*Name and location changed by request.