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Perineal massage during pregnancy

The perineum is the area between your vagina and your anus (back passage). 

Sometimes this area can be damaged during childbirth. Massaging your perineum from 34 weeks of pregnancy onwards may reduce this risk.

Tell your midwife or physiotherapist if you had a perineal tear in a previous labour. In most cases, you will still be able to do perineal massage.


Do not do perineal massage if you have vaginal warts or a vaginal infection such as thrush.

Prepare for the massage

Try perineal massage after a bath or a shower. This makes the perineum softer.

Use a water soluble lubricant on your thumbs and perineum. You can use jelly lubricant, olive oil, vegetable oil, vitamin E oil or any natural oil, almond or wheatgerm oil.

Do not use scented or synthetic oils.

It may help to use a mirror.

How to do perineal massage

  1. Wash your hands and make sure your nails are short.
  2. Make yourself comfortable in a semi-sitting position, squatting against a wall, sitting on the toilet, or standing with one foot up on the edge of the bath or a chair. 
  3. Put your thumbs 2.5cm to 4cm (1 inch to 1.5 inches) inside your vagina. Rest your forefingers on your buttocks.
  4. Press downward towards your anus (back passage) and to the sides at the same time until you feel a slight burning, stinging, or tingling sensation.
  5. Hold the pressure for 2 minutes.
  6. Breathe deeply and slowly and try to consciously relax the muscles.
  7. Keep pressing down with your thumbs and slowly and gently massage back and forth over the sides of your vagina in a U movement for 3 minutes.
  8. Aim to do this for 5 minutes each day.

Wash your hands afterwards. 

Your partner can help by using their thumbs or index fingers (to start with it may only be possible for them to use one finger). 

>>View images on how to do perineal massage

Step 1: Make yourself comfortable in a semi-sitting position.

Illustration showing where to put your fingers inside your vagina and pressing down when doing a perineal massage
Illustration showing where to press downward towards and to the side with your forefinger
Illustration showing where to rest your forefingers on your buttocks, below your vagina and stretch to the side
Illustration showing where to rest your forefingers on your buttocks, below your vagina and stretch upwards
Illustration showing where to rest your thumbs below your vagina and stretch downwards towards your anus

Benefits of perineal massage 

Perineal massage may:

  • make you less likely to tear or need an episiotomy (cut to the birth canal during the birth of your baby)
  • help you to experience less stinging sensation during the birth of your baby’s head
  • familiarise you with the stretching sensation of birth, which may help you relax these muscles birthing your baby

Page last reviewed: 22 November 2021
Next review due: 22 November 2024

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.