Out of every 10 women, 9 are prone to 1st, 2nd-degree vaginal tearing and cuts. First-time mothers are more likely to tear while childbirth. Although it is pretty common to get vaginal tears, it is actually possible to prevent vaginal tears. But before that, let’s have a quick study on what you need to know about vaginal tears and cuts.
Mothers don’t usually feel these vaginal cuts during the birth process due to continuous contractions but the discomfort and pain are evident once you give birth and enter your postpartum stage.
Doctors suggest mothers to not fear vaginal cuts but to normalize them because they are common while childbirth and can be healed within a span of 1 month or so. In this article, we’ll conclude what causes vaginal tears? How many types of vaginal tears are there? And at least, how to prevent Vaginal Tearing.
1. What Is Vaginal Tearing?
Vaginal Tearing or Perineum Laceration occurs when the vaginal opening fails to stretch enough for the baby causing cuts between the vagina & the anus. The perineum is the skin between your anus and vagina. These tears occur due to the pressure put on the area to push the baby out.
2. What Causes Vaginal Tearing?
The most common factor that causes vaginal cuts is the first-time delivery of a mother but there are many other contributing factors that can cause Vaginal tearing and cuts.
2.1. First-time childbirth
It’s obvious that mothers who give birth for the first time are more prone to cuts. Their perineal area isn’t stretched enough and neither is used to popping out a big baby out of a small opening. Given their first time, mothers experience everything including pushing, breathing, and birth positioning is very raw and inadequate.
It is also said, mothers who self-assist themselves and take a lead over themselves are better at avoiding tears and cuts. Why? Because they can work on the signals sent to them and not on the doctor’s signals. Your instructor’s signal can be random but your body will tell you exactly when to push.
While at your first childbirth, you are most probably oblivion to the surroundings and to the whole process. Hence, you work on your doctor’s lead. But if you can handle it on your own, do try to take over and control your movements. Putting downward pressure at the right time can save you from vaginal tears and cuts.
Related: HOW TO SPLIT DUTIES FOR YOUR BABY
2.2. Baby’s head
A Baby’s big head is pretty common but pushing it takes every ounce of you. My first child was very big, 11 and a half-pound. It does seem impossible to push such an enormous baby out. But with the right doctors and hospitals, it is possible.
Both my deliveries involved Episiotomy(We’ll discuss this further). An episiotomy is an intentional cut given to you down in the perineal area to get the baby out. Sometimes it’s the only medical option mothers have.
But, don’t let this scare you, you can still give birth to a baby without any cuts because our technology and practices have advanced since old times.
2.3. Some other causes of vaginal tearing are,
- Fast Birthing: When you birth before your time or when your body is not ready, it’s likely to get cuts. Because your body needs time to prepare itself to stretch. Early childbirth or fast birthing will not allow enough time for your body to adapt.
- Being Over-weight: Being overweight not only increases your risk of vaginal tearing, but it also delays your recovery and rouses new complications every day. It’s important to keep yourself under the right BMI and weight for a healthy body and baby.
- Prolonged Labors: If your labors take more than the time they should, it can cause vaginal tears, as well.
3. Types Of Vaginal Tears and cuts
There are four degrees of vaginal cuts and tears. Every level is labeled depending on its severity. While 1st, 2nd-degree vaginal cuts, and tears are common and heal fast, 3rd and 4th-degree vaginal cuts are severe. 1st and 2nd-degree cuts happen 95% of the time.
As mentioned, you cannot feel cuts during the birth process but the postpartum recovery of vaginal cuts can take weeks or months depending on its degree. The discomfort and pain are evident once your postpartum starts. Your perineal area will hurt with even a little pressure like sneezing or coughing.
3.1. 1st degree and 2nd-degree vaginal tears.
1st degree and 2nd-degree vaginal cuts take up to a week or more(weeks) to heal properly. These cuts are minor and only cut through the upper skin of your perineum. These degree tears might require a few stitches or none. 2nd-degree vaginal tears cut through your perineal skin and the muscles underneath. These 2nd degrees tears also need a few stitches.
3.2. 3rd Degree tears and 4th Degree tears.
3rd and 4th-degree tears are more severe. These cut through your perineal skin, perineal muscles, and perineal tissues. These require more than a few stitches and can take up to months to heal.
3.3. Recovery Of Vaginal Tears.
Your doctor will give you a complete guide to heal your vaginal tears the right way. Follow that guide and do not pressure your perineum to avoid further complications. For better Postpartum recovery, try to avoid these,
- Don’t do chores that will burden your body and wear you down.
- Recovery will take time, so focus on your body and your baby and avoid every other thing.
- Avoid Sex for a couple of weeks to heal properly and fast. Or ask your doctor for the green signal to sex.
- Don’t pressure your perineum at any given cost. That is, don’t pick up the heavy thing, keep yourself warm to avoid cough and cold(sneezing, coughing)
- Give your body time to heal.
4. How To Prevent Vaginal Tearing?
Vaginal tearing sure increases your recovery period. You though childbirth is the end of your pain and suffering and BAMM!! The next thing you know, vaginal tearing. But we can always prevent them or reduce the chances of their severity.
4.1. Perineal Massage
You must have heard of this one the most and in fact, it does work. Perineal massage stretches your perineum and keeps it flexible for the childbirth. The massage procedure might put you off but trust me, it’s better to have perineal massage than to go through, cuts, tears, stitches, and whatnot.
You can either perform this massage at home by yourself or with your partner or you can either take professional assistance. For this massage, use both your thumbs at opposite ends of your vaginal opening and stretch it wide open. Your left thumb pulling it at the left side and right hand pulling it at the right side.
Do it gently and not at once. Go slow and massage your way through the stretching. Massage your vaginal opening and the skin, muscles surrounding it. The goal of this massage is to stretch your muscles to prepare for happy childbirth. Of course, you cannot stretch it like the baby but try to keep the muscles flexible around the perineum.
Related: WHAT IS EPIDURAL — ITS PROS & CONS!
4.2. Perineal Exercise
While massage does all the required work. It doesn’t hurt to exercise to keep your pelvic zone stretchy and flexible. Exercise every day that involves thigh stretching and hip stretching. These Yoga poses are:
- Reclined Bound Angle Pose
- Child’s Pose
- Bound Angle Pose
- Modified garland Pose
- Extended Leg Squat Pose
- Crescent Lunge Pose
- Half Moon Pose
Practice these yogas daily to stretch your hip and pelvis muscles. Starting these yoga poses at early pregnancy is the best option and keep it in your schedule. Don’t skip these sessions and save your vagina from stretching.
4.3. Kegel Exercise.
Kegel exercise is not as hard as it sounds. All ou got to do is control your pelvic muscles. What is the Kegel Exercise? Controlling the pelvic muscles that control your bladder, bowel & uterus movements. This exercise will be helpful once you enter your delivery room because you’d need a better hand at handling your pushes and breathes.
For this exercise, lie down on your nack and try to hold back your pelvic muscles as if holding back from peeing(urinating) Perform this activity for 20 minutes every day When holding back, try to hold back your muscles for 20-30 seconds and then let go. You can do this exercise as often as you wish to.
Kegel will help you be closer to your pelvic muscles and stretching. So, kegel it any time, anywhere.
4.4. Birthing Position
The birthing position is important while giving birth. Try to look for a position that doesn’t ask you to put too much pressure on your perineum. Studies show that squatting, kneeling on all four, side-lying protects you from vaginal tears because it puts less pressure on your body and works on gravity.
The conventional birthing position of lying on the floor is very problematic and can create many issues, not able to cope up with pushing being number one. While this position suits some women, it’s not favorable for all. Don’t try to settle down for what you are not comfortable with.
Choose a position that you are comfortable in and don’t settle for anything less.
4.5. Childbirth In Water
Another birthing process to avoid tears and cuts is childbirth in water. Water is soothing in all its essence. Water birthing not only relaxes your mind but also soothes your body. Studies show that warm water can even prevent vaginal tears because it relaxes your perineum and puts off the pressure on it. Warm water can stretch your skin and help you prevent Tears.
You can practice stretching in your own tub until your due date to keep your body flexible with the warm water. But don’t overdo it. In fact, many second-time mothers have opted for a water birth because they simply love it.
4.6. Warm, Wet Towels
Traditionally, midwives have been using wet, warm towels to lessen the pain and avoid tears during childbirth. I know from personal experience how soothing warm towels can be when in pain. It studies lack evidence but doesn’t hurt to try.
4.7. The Epi-no
For mothers who do not find perineum massage comfortable, this epi-no medical device stretches and strengthens your vaginal opening. How? Epi-No is a balloon-like structure that you can insert in your vagina and pump it until you can and until you feel comfortable. You will find the whole guideline when getting this product.
Midwives recommend and use The Epi-no device for a better facilitating natural birth that avoids perineal tearing and such. The idea of The Epi-no device was derived from Africa where women used to insert a gourd to stretch their perineal area and their vaginal opening.
What Is An Episiotomy?
An episiotomy is a surgical incision of the perineal area to facilitate childbirth without tearing. That is, putting an intentional cut to get the baby out without risking unintentional cuts. Because intentional incision can be monitored but unintentional is hard to predict and heal.
Many mothers state their discomfort and word against Episiotomy, stating, it’s worse than C-section. Why?
- First is its location. While C-Section is around your stomach and can be taken care of easily. Episiotomy or vaginal cut is down around your vagina. The area cannot be cleaned, unused, taken care of. Hence, Episiotomy is a no-no for mothers unless medically required.
- Second, although it is said that an episiotomy is used to prevent tears. It now can increase the chances of vaginal tears.
So, don’t opt for it until completely necessary.