Tearing in birth
One of the biggest fears of pregnant women is tearing! We know that around 90% of women will tear a little during labour, however the majority of tears are small and will heal on their own or with a few stitches. Tears usually occur to the skin of the vagina or labia, and sometimes include the tissue of the perineum (between the vagina and the anus)
The good news is that our vagina’s have been birthing babies for millenia, they were designed for exactly this purpose! In the later stages of pregnancy we have a huge surge in the hormone relaxin. This allows the tissues of the perineum to soften and stretch, and the bones of the pelvis to become more ‘wobbly’ and create space for our baby! If you do have a tear that needs suturing after birth, this will be done by a midwife or doctor. While the procedure is taking place, you will receive local anaesthetic. Your vagina is made up of tons of folds (like a draw string purse) and is actually plenty big enough to open up as your baby moves through. The only part that does any stretching is the perineum itself
So, how can we reduce the chance or severity of tearing during labour? Follow your instinct- move into whatever position your body needs you to be in and listen to your own urges during the ‘pushing phase’
- Birth position- the positions associated with the lowest rates of tearing = all fours, lying on your side, or kneeling. Squatting and laying on your back with your legs in stirrups are associated with the highest rates of tearing. But- if your body needs you to squat? Squat.
- Avoid ‘coached pushing’ if possible. Hypnobirthing provides you with specific breathing tools to use at this stage of labour. But the key really is tuning into what your body is asking of you and listening to your instincts.
- Applying a warm compress to the perineum as baby is being born.
- Perineal Massage 2-3x a week from around 34 weeks of pregnancy can reduce tearing and episiotomy rates amongst first time mums.
- Water Birth
- Avoid an epidural where possible
- Give birth at HOME or on a birth centre. For low risk women, this significantly reduce the rate of tearing when compared to giving birth on an Obstetric Led Unit.
- Avoid instrumental birth unless completely necessary. If needed- forceps are associated with a higher rate of tearing than a ventouse, so you may like to discuss this choice with your care provider.
So there you have it, 8 ways to reduce the chances or the severity of tearing in birth. If you do tear during birth, what’s key is looking after yourself postnatally- keeping yourself comfortable, rested and aiding healing.
Megan offers labour pregnancy services, including hypnobirthing classes in Surrey. To book Megan, visit her directory profile below.