This is a guest post from Healthy Pregnancy. Read more about them at the end of this post.
Giving birth is an exciting experience. Yet, fears about tearing during childbirth are natural.
The pain of labor quickly disappears as soon as your newborn is placed in your arms. Yet, there are some types of discomfort that can occur during childbirth and can linger for several weeks or more. One of the most frequent birth injuries is a perineal rupture in which the tissue between anus and vulva tears because of heavy stretching. Vaginal tearing and episiotomies are often repaired using stitches, and they were once considered a fact of life regarding childbirth. However, it is now understood that there are things women can do to prepare for giving birth that help relax the vaginal opening and promote stretching. As you make your birth plan, include these tips to prevent tearing.
Know Your Risk
Some women are more at risk for serious vaginal tearing. Tears are more likely to occur during first time deliveries and in people who have had a severe laceration in the past. For example, if the baby is too big or very heavy during delivery, the birth process becomes too fast, as a result there is not sufficient stretching of the maternal tissue. Another cause of tearing is if the woman begins to push too early, the risk of a perineal rupture in this case is also increased. Even if there is no adequate support of the perineum or in case of a forceps or suction cup delivery, tears occur more frequently. Interventions, such as forceps, are also more likely to cause a vaginal tear. For this reason, it is best to let your birth proceed as naturally as possible if you are concerned about tearing.
Kegel exercises, during which you practice relaxing and tightening the muscles in your vagina, help you to recover after giving birth. Yet, they also prepare your vagina for relaxing as your baby enters the birth canal. If you do not know how to do Kegels, then ask your doctor to show you. Then, practice according to their recommendation every day so that you will be prepared to relax your muscles when the time is ready.
Push Correctly During Childbirth
In the movies, you see women pushing and screaming with all their might until their baby arrives. While this creates a dramatic effect, it is the last thing you want to do if you are trying to avoid tears. Instead, a slow, smooth delivery gives your vaginal muscles and surrounding tissues enough time to gradually stretch to accommodate the size of your baby. Follow your doctor or midwife’s instructions regarding how to push and when. Usually, you will begin with slow, deep pushes that work with your contractions and breathing until your baby crowns. Then you may switch to shorter, grunt-like pushes that allow your birth assistant to help guide the speed of your baby’s arrival.
Support of the Perineum
The support of the perineum is a common method to avoid tears. The midwife uses a special handgrip here: With one hand she protects the region between the vagina and the anus, while the other supports the child’s head to control the passage speed from the vagina.
Massage the Area with a Lubricant
Perineal massage has been shown to reduce tearing during the birthing process, and this is one tip that is simple enough to try at home. At around 34 weeks of pregnancy, begin using a natural oil such as sunflower or coconut to massage the entire perineal area, the genital area between the vulva and anus, while paying special attention to the area that is prone to tearing. You or your partner may also place your thumbs slightly into the vaginal area and press downward to your bottom and to the sides until a slight stretching sensation is felt. For best results, this should be done twice a day, and some people do it during the early stages of labor to encourage stretching.
Try a Birthing Pool
Many hospitals and home births involve a birthing pool that allows moms to soak in warm water throughout their labor. Soaking helps promote natural pain relief while the warm water relaxes the vaginal area. It is important to note that you do not have to choose a water birth to use the pool or a bathtub. Simply ask for help to get out once you reach active labor.
Use Warm, Wet Towels
If soaking does not appeal to you or is not possible, you can achieve a similar effect by placing warm, wet towels on your perineum. Flannel or soft, sterile towels feel best, and they can be replaced as needed up until it is time to push.
Get In the Right Position
In the past, women were encouraged to deliver on their backs with their legs in the air. However, it is believed that this increases the risk of tearing due to the pressure it places on the perineum. Instead, try to get on all fours or your side. These positions place less pressure on your bottom, and many women find that it can be one of the many options to help naturally decrease the pain of their contractions.
As your due date nears, you are bound to be filled with anticipation and concerns. By focusing on preventing tears through relaxation and using the best practices for your birth, you can welcome your baby with excitement and enjoy the best prospects for a comfortable postpartum recovery.