Objective: The aim of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of perineal massage during pregnancy for the prevention of perineal trauma at birth.
Study design: Pregnant women with (n = 493) and without (n = 1034) a previous vaginal birth from 5 hospitals in the province of Québec, Canada, participated in this single-blind, randomized, controlled trial. All participants received oral and written information on the prevention of perineal trauma. Women in the experimental groups were requested to perform a 10-minute perineal massage daily from the 34th or 35th week of pregnancy until delivery.
Results: Among participants without a previous vaginal birth, 24.3% (100/411) from the perineal massage group and 15.1% (63/417) from the control group were delivered vaginally with an intact perineum, for a 9.2% absolute difference (95% confidence interval 3.8%-14.6%). The incidence of delivery with an intact perineum increased with compliance with regular practice of perineal massage (chi2 for trend 13.2, P = 0.0003). Among women with a previous vaginal birth, 34.9% (82/235) and 32.4% (78/241) in the massage and control groups, respectively, were delivered with an intact perineum, for an absolute difference of 2.5% (95% confidence interval -6.0% to 11.0%). There were no differences between the groups in the frequency of sutured vulvar and vaginal tears, women's sense of control, and satisfaction with the delivery experience.
Conclusion: Perineal massage is an effective approach to increasing the chance of delivery with an intact perineum for women with a first vaginal delivery but not for women with a previous vaginal birth.