Tearing during childbirth is something everyone wants to avoid during delivery, so it's no wonder that moms are interested in any preventative measures that help minimize the severity of tears and the tear itself. A perineal massage can do a lot to help make the skin between your vagina and anus flexible and more likely to stretch, but what kind of oil or lubricant should you use in your massage? Can coconut oil help prevent tearing?
Coconut oil is a pretty versatile thing to have in your home, but it's not always great when it's used near your vagina. Dr. Joanna Ellington, sexual health and fertility expert at Fairhaven Health, tells Romper that natural oils have been associated with an increase in vaginal infection rates. "Virgin coconut oil has less oxidation and inflammation potential than many oils (which can degrade to toxic chemical over time), but it is very occlusive, meaning it stops water transport on contact," Ellington says. Because the vagina self-cleanses by water quickly expanding mucus granules in your vagina, this can be problematic, she says.
But does that affect a perineal massage? According to the American Pregnancy Association, a perineal massage can promote "greater elasticity of the muscles in the perineum." It can make the tissues more supple and flexible as well, so they relax and expand naturally during delivery. Surely coconut oil is safe in this aspect, right?
Not exactly. The American Pregnancy Association also noted that you should avoid natural oils, including coconut, while performing a perineal massage. Because of the risk associated with coconut oil and vaginal infections, it's simply not safe to use while you're massaging your perineum. The massage includes inserting your thumbs or fingers into your vagina to help stretch that area of skin, so you'll want to use a massage gel or oil that's safe for the inside of your vagina. The American Pregnancy Association recommended using massage gels specifically formulated for a perineal massage, but Parents noted that vegetable oil and vitamin E oil can also work.
Regardless of which oil you use, it's important to remember that there are no guarantees that a perineal massage will prevent tearing, according to the Mayo Clinic. But there are some other things you can do, including adding oil near your vagina during childbirth to help with friction during pushing. Whether coconut oil is safe for that practice or not is something you'll want to ask your healthcare provider.