Background: Women frequently suffer perineal trauma while giving birth. Interventions to increase the possibility for an intact perineum are needed.
Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of antenatal perineal massage in increasing the likelihood of delivering with an intact perineum.
Methods: This single blinded prospective controlled trial included 234 nulliparous women with a singleton fetus. Women allocated to the study group were instructed to practice a 10 minute perineal massage daily from the 34th week of gestation until delivery. Primary outcome measures included the episiotomy rate; first, second, third and fourth-degree perineal tear rates; and intact perineum. Secondary outcomes were related to specific tear locations and the amount of suture material required for repair.
Results: Episiotomy rates, overall spontaneous tears and intact perineum rates were similar in the study and control groups. Women in the massage group had slightly lower rates of first-degree tears (73.3% vs. 78.9%, P = 0.39) and slightly higher rates of second-degree tears (26.7% vs. 19.3%, P= 0.39), although both of these outcomes did not reach statistical significance. The rates of anterior perineal tears were significantly higher in the massage group (9.5% vs. 3%, P = 0.05), whereas internal lateral tears rates were slightly lower but without statistical significance (11.5% vs.13.1%, P=0.44).
Conclusions: The practice of antenatal perineal massage showed neither a protective nor a detrimental significant effect on the occurrence of perineal trauma.