Saturday, 19 December 2009

Birth Plan, Check! Supple Perineum, Eeek!

My birth plan is complete! In homage to my love of lists, it’s in bullet point fashion and conveys my preferences for labor and birth while miraculously staying short and sweet. Not that I’m ever prone to loquaciousness – ha! I’m pleased it’s now sorted and not hanging over my head and tempting my tendency for doing things at the last minute. Now we’ll just need to see how this “plan” plays out in reality.

Never one to chill out entirely, I’m on to my next “to do” for this stage of late pregnancy: perineal massage. If you’re unfamiliar with the perineum, Wordnetweb defines it as “the general region between the anus and the genital organs,” i.e. the sensitive zone that bears the brunt of delivery and is prone to tearing as baby makes her entrance into the world.

Ever wondered how babies will fit out of THERE? We know they do, but they often leave their mark on the region via an episiotomy (medical cut) or natural tear to the perineum, particularly common in first timers.

Think of you perineum as a piece of tight elastic that gradually needs to stretch to accommodate a baby’s head....or perhaps as a piece of pastry that needs to be moulded and “softened” so it has give over a larger surface area. Yup, that’s what I need to do to increase the elasticity of my trusty perineum. 

BabyWorld gives an easy to follow overview and how to on perineal massage. In brief, dress clean fingers with some natural oil, slide them 2-3cm into your lower vagina and stretch/massage downwards and outwards.  It’s suggested that you start around 36 weeks pregnant and that the practice will familiarize you with the pressure, stretching and burning sensations that you may experience during birth, making you more relaxed in the moment. Perineal massage stimulates blood flow to the region, increasing its elasticity and speeding the post birth healing process.

The manoeuvre does not look sexy or feel comfortable and that’s before I consider that I’m navigating around a bump as lofty as a stalk of Swiss chard that weighs about 6 1/3 pounds.  And my arms are short!

In the end, all my efforts may be in vain. It’s not proven that perineal massage will prevent tearing. But you know what? I’ve heard tales aplenty of the crowning “ring of fire” and tears of various degrees and if I can learn to work with the burn and lessen my chances of tearing or needing an episiotomy, I’m up for some non-graceful dabbles with olive oil in my nether regions.

For those interested in water birth, check out this ultimate water birth.
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