Apparently the mothers to be of New Zealand agree and it is common practice there to use a device called the Epi-no. This is basically a balloon with a pump you use to stretch your perineum in preparation for childbirth. Makes sense, no? The only problem is that at £89.99 it's a tad pricey.
However, I counted up how many pounds I'd pay to avoid stitches and had my credit card at the ready, but being fairly sensible decided to do a google search to see how effective other women found it to be. The results were mixed and I was almost put off the idea until I saw this comment where the clever mum to be had found a much cheaper alternative:
The above is not intended to be an aid in preparation for childbirth but is an anal balloon pump. Yes, some people get their kicks inflating balloons in their bottoms! Each to their own, I say. It works in pretty much the same way as the Epi-no and only costs £8.99.
I did end up purchasing the (ahem!) cheaper version and find it works well for me. It has definitely given me a bit of confidence in that I can feel how my muscles would work to push the baby out and it stretches the bits that want stretching!
Obviously you only use either of these devices when your pregnancy has gone full term. You should also bear in mind that the Epi-no has undergone 'clinical trials' and the anal balloon pump probably hasn't.
Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the safety of either of these products and you ought to check with your midwife or doctor before using any device like this.
BTW: I am now the proud owner of 90 'Oh!' loyalty points after purchasing my balloon pump. I'd never have thought sex toy websites would have loyalty schemes but every day's a schoolday...
UPDATE: I was recently alerted to this post by the Canadian distributor of the Epi-no. I would recommend you read this if you are thinking in investing in this product, as she makes some informative and valid points. As I've not tried the Epi-no I can't compare it to the product I bought and haven't done that in my blog post. However I definitely stand by my comments regarding the Ep-no being too expensive. I am all for inventors making plenty of money but the high price tag on this product seems to be trading on women's fear of tearing and stitches. Sure you can use it to train your pelvic floor both pre and post pregnancy but you can also do basic pelvic floor exercises for free. I agree with her, and pointed out, that the Epi-no is a 'tested product' but to claim as she does that "it will save you money, pain and suffering in the long run which makes it a very worthwhile investment in your pelvic floor health." is wide of the mark. The fact of the matter is that very few women experience long term pelvic floor damage. However, I am all for a product that helps people, as I'm sure the Epi-no does with some.