I've promised in the last couple of Pink Kit work posts that I'd talk about the Internal Work. I wanted to get at least a week of it done and with being busy last week we've been doing the work about two weeks now.
The internal work is sort of like perineal massage, which you may have read about. Perineal massage gets mixed reviews from midwives – some think it helps and others thinks it makes no difference. The theory behind it is loosening and making the tissues around the perineum supple. (If you're not sure, the perineum the tissue between the vagina and anus.)
Perineal massage usually works on that tissue on around the opening of the vagina to make the tissue more elastic so it will stretch around the baby's head more easily, resulting in a smaller chance of tearing for the mother.
Ok. So. The Internal Work is different. It's similar in that you're working down in those intimate areas. But the focus is not really on that small area we think of as the perineum (the PK does recommend that you work with that area, however, it's in a different part of the kit and I'll talk about it later).
The Internal Work is very literally internal, and you are working with muscle bands inside the vagina. The Pink Kit comes with an audio that walks you through exactly how to do this. Scott and I listened to it a few times and then just started the work on our own. I found it easier to focus on relaxing without the tape going and I think Scott just found it less annoying not to have a narrator 😉
I have Scott do the internal work because I'm comfortable with that. But if you don't like the thought of someone else doing the internal work with you there are complete directions for doing it by yourself (in the shower is recommended).
So our adventure with the internal work has been positive. Like I said, it works with bands of muscles inside the vagina (birth canal). The top of the vagina is left alone – this is where the bottom of the uterus, the cervix, and the baby's head (or bum for a breech babe) are at. The Pink Kit does teach you how to check your own dilation/baby's position but not in this section.
So this leaves the sides and back of the birth canal to work with. As you'll learn through your PK work there are a LOT of muscles up there. And as Scott has noticed they are pretty strong muscles! The Internal Work involves gentle but firm massage on these muscle groups to help you, the birthing woman, become conscious of them and learn to relax them. It also helps progressively relax them over the weeks you do the internal work (it's recommended you start around 32 weeks). It takes about 10 minutes a day.
For me it has been challenging to relax the side muscles. Scott says I do a good job of it but I can still feel tightness in them. It takes focus for me to relax all of my body and then specifically relax more in there. I also find relaxing when Scott is working on the back muscles to be hard. That massage hits against the muscles that make it feel like you have to go to the bathroom. You've heard that lots of women mistake a baby's head for needed to poop – and that's why. The baby's head pushes right up against those same muscles. So the internal work helps you get used to that sensation and the hope is you'll be able to relax (instead of the instinctive tightening to STOP everything) so that your baby's head can come through your birth canal easily.
So far, after two weeks of the internal work, I think it's worth it. I'm much, much more aware of the muscle groups within the birth canal. I'm more able to relax them than I was, and I think working on it over the next few weeks will help a lot. Even if I'm not “more supple” or “more stretchy” (LOL) for the baby's birth I will have a strong understanding of how to relax those muscles and let go when it's time for my baby's head to move through the birth canal. I think that will be invaluable because I'll know that no muscle tension will be holding my baby back. Releasing tension is also a key to an enjoyable birth, and that's what I'm planning to have 😉 So we'll keep up the Internal Work.