Objective: Antenatal perineal massage has been shown to reduce the incidence of perineal tears in primiparous women. The aim of this study was to determine whether perineal massage impacts on primary prevention of symptomatic disruption of the fecal continence mechanism.
Methods: An observational study recruited two cohorts of women. The first, massage group (MG) chose to perform daily perineal massage from 34 weeks gestation, and the second, control group (CG) was asked to avoid massage. Perineal injury and postnatal pain were documented and all women were invited to attend at three months postpartum for continence assessment, anal manometry, and endoanal ultrasound.
Results: Of 179 women recruited, 100 were in the MG while 79 women were controls. Mode of delivery was not influenced by perineal massage. Although the impact did not reach statistical significance, women aged over 30 years in the MG were more likely to be delivered with an intact perineum than controls. Postnatal perineal pain was much reduced in the MG compared with the CG (p = 0.029). Of the women recruited, 136 (75.9%) returned for a postnatal continence assessment. Manometry pressures, continence scores, and endoanal ultrasound findings were similar in both groups.
Conclusion: Antenatal perineal massage was found to significantly affect postnatal perineal pain scores although it did not impact on the incidence of intact perineum at delivery, postnatal continence scores, anal manometry pressures, or endoanal ultrasound findings.