Damage to the perineum (the area between the genital organs and the anus) during vaginal birth affects the sexuality, self-esteem, and quality of life of countless women every year.
In the study, over 1,300 women who were expecting a normal vaginal birth of a single baby were randomized into two groups.
Perineal massage did not benefit:|
- Intact perineum rate
- Urinary and fecal problems
- Sexual problems
Women in the intervention group received massage and stretching of the perineum with each contraction during the second stage of labor.
For women in the control group, midwives were instructed to use their usual technique, but to refrain from using perineal massage.
The research team found no benefit from massage on rates of intact perineums and damage, pain, or urinary, fecal, and sexual problems.
There were fewer serious (third degree) tears in the massage group, but larger trials are needed to assess whether massage can protect against the risk of this rarer outcome, add the authors.
Despite these findings, this trial shows that perineal massage is not harmful, and that in itself may be of value, say the authors.
"We suggest that midwives follow their usual practice while taking into account the preferences of individual women," they conclude.