Antenatal perineal massage benefits in reducing perineal trauma and postpartum morbidities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Int Urogynecol J. 2020 Sep;31(9):1735-1745. doi: 10.1007/s00192-020-04302-8. Epub 2020 May 12.


Introduction and hypothesis: Most vaginal births are associated with trauma to the perineum. The morbidity associated with perineal trauma can be significant, especially when it leads to third- and fourth-degree perineal tears. We hypothesized that antenatal perineal massage could decrease the incidence of perineal trauma, particularly severe perineal tears and other postpartum complications.

Methods: We searched four different databases from inception until August 2019 for the available trials. We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) which assessed the effect of antenatal perineal massage (intervention group) versus control group (no antenatal perineal massage) in perineal trauma patients. Data were extracted from eligible studies and meta-analyzed using RevMan software. Primary outcomes were the risk of episiotomies and perineal tears. Secondary outcomes were perineal pain, second stage of labor duration, wound healing, anal incontinence, and Apgar scores at 1 and 5 min.

Results: Eleven RCTs with 3467 patients were analyzed. Women who received antenatal perineal massage had significantly lower incidence of episiotomies (RR = 0.79, 95% CI [0.72, 0.87], p < 0.001) and perineal tears (RR = 0.79, 95% CI [0.67, 0.94], p = 0.007), particularly the risk of third- and fourth-degree perineal tears (p = 0.03). Better wound healing and less perineal pain were evident in the antenatal perineal massage group. Antenatal perineal massage reduced the second stage of labor duration (p = 0.005) and anal incontinence (p = 0.003) with significant improvement in Apgar scores at 1 and 5 min (p = 0.01 and p = 0.02).

Conclusions: Antenatal perineal massage is associated with a lower risk of severe perineal trauma and postpartum complications.

Keywords: Antenatal perineal massage; Episiotomy; Perineal trauma; Prenatal perineal massage.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery, Obstetric / adverse effects
  • Episiotomy / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Massage
  • Morbidity
  • Obstetric Labor Complications* / etiology
  • Obstetric Labor Complications* / prevention & control
  • Perineum*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic