Tearing during childbirth is very painful and ranges in different degrees of severity. Many women birth large babies without a tear at all and others tear birthing tiny babies. It just depends on your body.
There are things you can do to prevent tearing or more accurately – minimize the risk of tearing. That’s what we’ll discuss today because you should try to avoid tearing at all costs. I tore with all three of my babes and I have scarring and less sensitivity down there now. Not fun…..
But first, let’s discuss why tears happen.
During labor, the baby’s head descends into the vagina and moves down onto the perineum.
The perineal skin (the area between your vagina and anus) will thin and stretch over your baby’s head. As the baby’s head begins to crown, the labia and vaginal opening begin to bulge and stretch around the head.
If the skin and perineum have not stretched sufficiently then a tear can happen, unfortunately.
Now let’s talk about the different kinds of tears you can have.
There are four degrees of tearing and the third and fourth are less common and pretty gruesome.
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A first-degree tear is when the skin is only torn a bit. With a first-degree laceration, you may not even need stitches which would be awesome.
A second-degree tear is a little more serious. These lacerations involve both skin and muscle tearing and do require stitches. This is what happens to me each time.
A third-degree tear is in the vaginal skin, perineal skin, and the muscle that extends to the anal sphincter (muscle around your anus). Not cool.
And the last is by far the worst. A Fourth Degree Tear is the same as a third-degree one except it extends into the anal sphincter and the tissue around it.
Both can negatively affect the pelvic floor function and anal muscles. So not ok.
But as I said earlier there are things you can do to help. The list below are things you should do both prenatally and some great tips to do during birth to prevent or minimize tearing.
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How To Avoid Or Minimize Tearing During Childbirth
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Take a Childbirth Education Class
This one is huge because being calm during birth, finding good positions, possibly choosing to forgo the epidural (no judgment and we support all) is going to lessen the chance of tearing or lessen the amount of tearing.
Good nutrition will give your skin the elasticity to stretch far beyond its normal ability. I’m sure by this far in your pregnancy you know what is considered good and bad but just for the record, I’ll say eat plenty of fruits and veggies along with healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oils.
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Avoid the episiotomy
An Episiotomy is when they go ahead and cut the area to make more room for baby. Not sure why so many still do this but it’s still pretty common.
Routine episiotomy increases the risk of severe tears, and long term perineal, vaginal, pelvic floor, and anal sphincter damage, and an episiotomy rarely has benefits over a natural tear.
So why do it? In most situations, if any tearing is going to occur, natural tearing has less risk and often heals better. If your doctor starts talking about having one tell them NO THANKS.
Your birthing position can also play a big part in reducing tearing. Research shows that if you’re in a standing, squatting, kneeling or side-lying position, you’re more likely to conclude childbirth without a tear.
If you really want to avoid tearing you may want to skip the Epidural. When you get one you’ll be stuck in one position laying down. This really increases the risk of tearing.
There are other options for labor pain besides Epidural that will allow for more movement. You can learn more about that right here.
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Getting in a warm tub is said to help your skin stretch. The warm water helps increase skin elasticity considerably. Midwives and doulas agree that this is a great way to avoid a tear so opt for that room with the tub in case you decide you want to hop in.
Perineal Massage doesn’t sound like much fun but it’s extremely helpful. You’ll be glad you took the time to do it when you come out of birth with your perineum intact.
Here’s a great video that will teach you all about tears and massage.
Use A Birthing Ball
Getting on a birthing ball during labor and beforehand will help condition your skin and perineum to open up and stretch. It’s a great exercise and it helps condition your body for giving birth.
Here’s a ball made just for pregnant mamas. You can get it on Amazon at a great price.
****Other Helpful Resources: Is it Braxton Hicks Or Regular Contractions?
Warm compresses during the later stages of labor are so helpful for many reasons. First and foremost they warm up the tissue and allow it to stretch really well.
Second, they supply comfort and help with the pain. You can use warm, wet washcloths. Most rooms have a microwave but if not use hot water from the sink.
You can have your partner hold them on there when you get near the pushing stages. This is standard practice for most midwives so if you have one ask them about it.
Good Ole Fashion Kegels
Kegels will help strengthen your pelvic floor and your vagina too. They will bring lots of blood flow and prepare your vagina for relaxing as your baby enters the birth canal.
Kegels will help the muscles recover after childbirth so that you don’t have accidents for those first few months as well so they’re well worth the little bit of effort.
So there you have it, these are the traditional ways to help your body birth easier and prevent or minimize tearing. I hope this helps and gives you some things to consider.
I wish you tons of luck on your birthing journey and enjoy this special time!
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