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Gentle Vaginal Stretching: A Discovery in Itself!

Learn how to practice gentle vaginal stretching and perineal massage to avoid vaginal tears. Keep your perineum soft and relax for a healthy vaginal birth.

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly." -Margaret Fuller

The perineal massage was a method recommended by midwives in the 70's and the 80's to prevent tears during vaginal delivery.

Many doctors believe that it may reduce the rate of episiotomy.

One of the most recent research seems to say that it slightly reduces the number of vaginal tears in women delivering their first baby. Their conclusion is that perineal massage during pregnancy is a prevention of perineal trauma and vaginal tears (American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, March 2000).

The vaginal stretching is a detour in an area of our body that usually receives little attention except for hygiene and sex! 

Perineal Massage and Vaginal Stretching

  • You can try a daily treatment during the last 6 weeks before your expected due date.
  • If you take a nice warm bath before it promotes tissue flexibility and muscle relaxation of your whole body, especially of your perineum. Keep that in mind if you have access to a bath during labor and delivery. If not, use a warm/hot washcloth.
  • At the beginning, use a mirror or ask your partner to participate.
  • Your hands must be clean with your fingernails short.
  • Put you at ease, using a semi-sitting position.
  • If you do the vaginal stretching yourself, use your thumbs. If it's your partner, he can use his index and middle fingers.
  • You can dip your fingers in almond oil or wheat germ oil and inserting them to about 2 inches (3-4 cm) into your vagina. Here is a link of a natural oil from Earth Mama Angel Baby especially made for perineal massage. You can click on the link below to have an overview of this great product that I highly recommend:
Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Stretch Oil, 4-Ounce Bottle

  • Apply pressure on your vaginal muscles and pelvic floor muscles so that you can relax them and allow the passage of your baby (eventually!).
  • You can imagine the entrance of your vagina as a clock to locate the pressure points. You press your perineum toward your rectum (at 6 o'clock) and to the sides (at 4 o'clock and at 8 o'clock). 
  • Firmly press each point, one by one, each time returning to the center (6 o'clock) before pressing another pressure point toward the sides.
  • Hold this gentle stretching until you feel a tingling sensation or a slight burning.
  • Maintain the pressure for 30 to 60 seconds and up to 2 minutes as the exercise becomes easier.

Explore your vagina!

In my prenatal yoga class, I always introduce the subject for a healthy vagina...and I have a lot of reactions! Some women find that this massage is unpleasant and refuse to practice it. Some believe it's a good preparation for vaginal delivery, especially when you have learned to relax your perineum muscles.

I like to remind pregnant women about the Sphincter Law. Ina May Gaskin, a great midwife, describes the Sphincter Law in the following way:

  • Sphincter muscles of both anus and vagina do not respond on command.
  • The muscles are more likely to open if the woman feels positive about herself; where she feels inspired and enjoys the birth process.
  • Sphincter muscles open more easily in a comfortable intimate atmosphere where a woman feels safe.
  • Sphincter muscles may suddenly close even if they have already dilated, if the woman feels threatened in any way.

It's good to explore your perineum and to be aware of its muscles, skin and tissues. This is where you will feel pressure and stretching during childbirth. To avoid anxiety or any shock related to natural birth, I think it is a good idea to try it once, at least! You will feel more in control and confident during the pushing stage.

If you want to explore the preparation of your perineum, I invite you to read my pelvic floor exercise page. I think it is wise to learn how to locate your pelvic muscles in order to be able to relax them during labor and delivery...or to use them during the stage of pushing!

Discovering the sensation of vaginal stretching, to tame that particular sensation before giving birth can help you to stay calm during delivery. Keep in mind that your perineum is made to open and it's the natural passage for your baby!

More than ever, you will need to relax during the passage of your child in your perineum and in your vagina. You will need to breathe deeply, even though you will feel this burning sensation. And remember that every little relaxation brings you closer to the opening that's right for your baby, that is right for your body!

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