Tearing during the delivery process is (unfortunately) quite common. It happens when the vagina opening isn’t big enough for the baby’s head to come through. These types of tears may take a few weeks to heal, and extensive tears could take longer to heal and might also lead to an infection if it hasn’t been taken care of and healed well. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of tearing, there are some strategies you can try to reduce your risk. You could consider getting perineal massages or working with a midwife. And if these options are not available to you there are a few tips and tricks to keep the tearing to a minimum. So, if you’d like to know more about tearing during childbirth and how to avoid it, this is the article for you. Read on!
What Is A Tear During Childbirth?
Now, we all know that a tear during childbirth is an injury that the mother sustains during the pushing or delivery of the baby. But did you know that there are four different degrees of childbirth tears? Let’s have a look at them.
- First Degree: A first-degree tear only involves the skin of the perineum which is the region below the pelvic diaphragm (1). This is the area between the vaginal opening and the anus. It is also known as the least severe type of tearing.
- Second Degree: This involves tears in the skin and muscle of the perineum, requiring stitches and weeks of healing in order to fully recover.
- Third Degree: The tear extends to the muscles surrounding the anal sphincter and can be associated with incontinence which is a lack of control over urination and defecation (2).
- Fourth Degree: This type of tear is the most severe, and involves the anal muscles and the rectal tissue. It requires surgical repair under anesthesia and can have extended healing periods. It can range from a couple of weeks to a few months depending on the mother.
Is It Possible To Avoid Tearing During Childbirth?
Mothers must keep in mind that it is impossible to guarantee that you will not tear at all during childbirth. However, whether a tear happens during the delivery process depends on a variety of factors. For example, you will have to take into account the size and position of the baby, if the mom has had any previous births, the birth setting itself, and any prior perineal trauma that may be present. All of this comes into play when considering if you are going to experience tearing and to what degree.
Tips To Avoid Or Minimize Tearing During Childbirth
If you’d like to reduce the chances of tearing during childbirth then these are some options for you:
1. Consider Using A Midwife
That’s right, some studies have shown that women who use a certified nurse midwife have lower incidences of perineal tearing during childbirth (3). So, this method is definitely worth a shot!
2. Warm Compress
Ask your doctor or your midwife to use warm compresses during the labor as it might reduce your chances of getting first or second degree tears. However this is not formally recognised as a perineal technique to reduce perineal trauma during childbirth as the results differ from woman to woman.
3. Practice Perineal Massages
Talk to your pregnancy care provider about what they recommend during your pregnancy for perineal massage. It doesn’t hurt to get as stretchy as possible.
4. Use An Open Birthing Position
When it comes to reducing the risk of getting tears, the position in which you give birth is crucial and plays a big role in influencing this particular factor. There is some evidence that the “movie” way of giving birth, that is, on your back, may increase the risk for tears (4). So, talk with your delivery provider about options for birthing positions that could reduce your risk of tearing. You can also try out a few while you are getting dilated to decide which one you’d prefer on the day of the birth.
What Happens If You Tear During Childbirth?
If you do end up tearing during childbirth chances are that you may not even realize, especially if you have an epidural in which case you won’t feel the tear happening at all. However, depending on the degree of the tear, type of tear, and the exact location of the repair, you may experience varying degrees of discomfort and pain during your recovery. There may also be a chance that your doctors or midwife will have to give you stitches after delivery and will instruct you on how to properly care for the tear.
Tearing is common so there is no need to be alarmed and stress out about it. Do your best to avoid it or minimize the damage. But give your body time to properly heal from the tears and delivery if it does occur.