What If I Tear During Birth?
Tearing during childbirth can be a big concern for mothers, especially if they’re having their first baby.
Here’s what you need to know about tearing during birth and what happens if you do tear.
How common is it to tear during childbirth?
According to the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 9 out of 10 first-time mothers are likely to experience some degree of vaginal tearing during birth.
There are some healthcare providers that may purposefully cut the perineum to prevent a more extensive injury. It is called an episiotomy. We educate our clients on this procedure so they can decide if that is something they would be interested in or not for their birth.
An episiotomy can be made laterally or in a downward direction. The purpose is to increase the vaginal space and provide more area for the baby to come out. Creating a controlled cut prevents accidental injury to the perineum and allows you to create a neater scar that you can repair.
For mothers who have had a vaginal birth before, perineal tears are less common. However, they might still experience tearing if the baby is larger than the previous one or if they suffered tearing during the last birth.
How can I prevent tearing?
We take various measures to prevent tearing, including discussing previous episiotomies and softening scar tissue before labor.
Techniques to reduce tearing:
- Perineal massage: from 36 weeks of pregnancy, you can try perineal massage if you feel comfortable doing it to reduce the risk of tearing. It softens your perineum and makes it more elastic to reduce the risk of tearing.
- Warm perineal compress: warm compresses to the perineal region softens it and reduces the extent of tearing even if it does occur.
- Warm water: warm water baths work the same way as warm compresses.
- Perineal support: this is manual protection using the midwife’s hands. Manual perineal protection can be provided in many birth positions and it is used for a short period of time during the birth of the baby to reduce tearing.
What do you do if I tear?
A tear for some moms is inevitable. But most of these tears are less severe and can heal without complications.
Our midwives are skilled in suturing and can repair tearing here at the birth center. If you do get stitches, here are some things to do to encourage healing:
- Take plenty of water and fiber to avoid constipation
- Avoid lifting heavy weights or doing anything that causes a strain down below
- Wear breathable, cotton underwear
- Maintain hygiene by cleaning the area with mild soap and water
- Visit your healthcare provider regularly to get your stitch line assessed