I was at an ICAN meeting this week and we got on the topic of perineal tearing and how to prevent it. I had 2nd degree tears with both kids and although the tears weren’t that uncomfortable while it was happening, I strongly dislike getting stitched up. Also, I’m not a big fan of perineal massage. A lot of people recommend doing perineal massage in the weeks leading up to birth and I find it so awkward and uncomfortable that I just did not want to do it. I’ve heard that one benefit to doing it is so that you recognize the stretching sensation during birth and stay calm so that your body can do its thing. Two midwives were in attendance at the meeting and they had an alternative suggestion.
About six weeks before your estimated due date, you take a bowl/jar of olive oil, set it next to your bed and put some cotton balls in it. Every night you make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and then insert one of these olive oil soaked cotton balls into your vagina. I didn’t ask, but maybe some people will chime in, whether there is a risk of bacterial infection by doing this? Anyway, the concept is that the olive oil will moisturize the tissue there through the night without it being really messy. I asked about evening primrose oil and if it would have the same benefits and they said that it seemed to have less viscosity, making it not as moisturizing. Evening primrose oil is good at ripening the cervix, but doesn’t have as many benefits at the perineum.
One of the mom’s there had torn with three of her births and learned this technique for her latest birth and did not have any tearing. I can’t find anything online about using olive oil soaked cotton balls for birth preparation online. I’ve never seen it in any of the books that I’ve read on birth. I have gotten almost everything I’ve wanted during my births, but an intact perineum is the one thing that eludes me.
With my last birth, since I caught Nick myself, I felt like I did my best at controlling how fast he crowned, but my body was on auto-pilot and it was difficult for me to slow down and ease his head out gently. I will try this technique out for the next birth.
Update: So a few people have made some more suggestions and I think they are a good idea. When I did my google searches, the only stuff that came up for this type of thing was for Group B Strep (GBS). So if you wanted to make an un-inhabitale zone for GBS and do some good for your perineum, you could add some garlic cloves to the olive oil. Garlic has a lot of healing properties in it and is good for fighting so many types of infection. You could also add some Vitamin E to the olive oil as a preservative. An alternative to olive oil could be coconut oil but you have to remember that coconut oil is a solid at room temperature. You would have to melt the coconut oil, throw some cotton balls in and then when they cooled you would have a cotton ball that felt like it had lotion all in it. Apparently coconut oil is also naturally antimicrobial, so another good oil source.