A new massage 'must' for mums-to-be

Q. I am pregnant for the first time and wondering about perineal massage, which I gather may reduce tearing. Is it worthwhile? A. The perineum is the area of skin and underlying muscles between the vagina and anus, which stretches naturally as the baby’s head emerges during labour. However, some perineal tearing occurs in 85 percent of vaginal births. Stitching is often needed and sometimes a small cut in the perineum (episiotomy) to reduce the risk of greater tearing.

Perineal massage helps to stretch the tissue so it can accommodate the baby’s head more easily. Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Mr. Lawrence Mascarenhas, who leads a perineal clinic at London Bridge Hospital, says, ‘We all support perineal massage to reduce the incidence of tearing and unnecessary episiotomies. It is very distressing to see the number of women who are in pain and can’t have sex for months, sometimes years.’

Antenatal perineal massage (APM ) is a relatively new practice here but a tradition in Eastern cultures, according to a recent article by midwife Jane Mason in Essentially MIDIRS. She quotes one blog post that says, ‘I’m Arab and in our culture [perineal] massages are a must – there are even massage parlours that offer them for pregnant women.’

According to Mr Mascarenhas, although research is scanty, APM is now included as a standard recommendation in most antenatal literature. However, many midwives have not heard of APM or know what it entails, according to Jane Mason. She has now developed an information leaflet for Nottingham University Hospitals Trust.

Jane and her midwifery colleague Theresa Mouncey have a passionate interest in offering pregnant women safe, natural maternity care. Their experience of practising drug-free techniques such as aromatherapy led to setting up the Natural Birthing Company, which offers natural products (that they developed themselves) to help women through pregnancy, labour and after.

Down BelowFrom 34 weeks of pregnancy, Jane and Theresa advise massaging the perineum for five minutes twice daily, three to four times a week, with Down Below, a blend of rosehip, calendula and apricot kernel oil (£15.99 for 50ml). For simple massage instructions and Jane and Theresa’s e-book Birthing Buddy (£2.99), go to www.naturalbirthingcompany.co.uk.



• Helen Browning’s Organic Speedy Sausages - scrumptious, quick-cook sausages made of 96 per cent organic pork from free-ranging saddleback sows; lightly spicy, nut- and dairy-free. In a double pack so you can freeze one.

Two packs of six sausages, 200g, £3.30 from Ocado and Sainsbury’s; more stockists at www.helenbrowningsorganic.co.uk.

The Black Farmer Premium Pork Sausages - delicious, and made from British outdoor-bred Freedom Food pork, these are gluten-, wheat- and dairy-free. Also available in pork, onion and chives, and pork and leek flavours.

From £2.98 for six, 400g, from Ocado; for other stockists, visit www.theblackfarmer.com.

Heck-97 Heck 97% Pork Sausages - these pork shoulder bangers were voted very tasty by our testers. The range also includes pork and apple, and smoky chorizo as well as chicken (yes chicken sausages, rather good). They do contain milk products.

£2.99 for six, 400g, from Tesco; for other stockists go to www.heckfood.co.uk.



Anyone concerned about dementia may want to join in the Alzheimer’s Society UK-wide Memory Walk. This fundraising campaign runs through September and October, supported by award-winning actress Vicky McClure, whose grandmother is living with this distressing condition (which affected my father too). Funds will support research and also initiatives such as Singing for the Brain groups (see my column 19 December 2009). Find your local walk at www.memorywalk.org.uk.



Fire alarmRemember to use barbecues, Primus stoves or gas heaters in the open air only, never in a confined space such as a tent or canopy, as you risk chronic illness, brain damage or even death through inhaling carbon monoxide fumes. If you are going away, take a portable CO alarm, such as Fire Angel Carbon Monoxide Alarm, £24.99 from www.victoriahealth.com. For more information about CO poisoning, visit www.co-bealarmed.co.uk.