Reducing Perineal Tearing During Childbirth

Bayo Ajibola

How to Prevent Perineal Tearing During Childbirth.

Vaginas are small and babies, not so much. It is therefore a little difficult for a first-time mother not to be scared about giving birth and keeping her vagina intact. Thinking about it logically can drive you crazy because it just doesn’t add up even though you know that’s the official way out for the baby. Vaginal tears during childbirth, also called perineal lacerations or tears, occur when the baby’s head is coming through the vaginal opening . Here are what you need to know on how to Prevent Perineal Tearing During Childbirth

Thankfully, the vagina is built for every function it carries out (including providing safe passage for a 3.5kg baby). There is a great supply of hormones during pregnancy and even labour to this area. These hormones ensure increased blood flow to the vagina and also make it a little more stretchy than usual. The medical staff can also use heat packs to massage the area so as make it a little less painful to give birth vaginally as well as reducing chances of tearing.

It doesn’t always occur

Women who experience severe perineal tearing during delivery make about 2 percent of all women. It could go as far as the vagina, stretching to the perineum (skin between the vagina and anus) and maybe even the anus itself in the worst case scenario. 26 percent of women may have a tear that calls for stitches, 23 percent have minor tears or grazes that heal fast and on their own while 27 percent have no tears at all.

A survey of Australian women found that while the rates of perineal tearing aren’t too high, they have increased over the last 100 to 200 years. The data says 95 percent of women in the 1800s had no tearing at all. Reasons for this may include the possibility that they gave birth younger, had their babies not too far apart, had their babies in an upright position and definitely had fewer medical interventions during delivery.

Warm packs and warm care

The pain cannot be ignored during childbirth and it can cripple anyone. Sometimes you are in so much pain and fear that it becomes difficult to work with your body and let the baby see the world. A warm pack works wonders in such scenarios because of the heat. It soothes the pain thus helping the woman relax and work with her body instead of trying to stop it. Pain also becomes bearable a few days after delivery. It also reduces tearing. This intervention was also found to reduce urinary incontinence three months after delivery.

It’s nothing complex though. A warm pack is basically an absorbent sterile pad soaked in boiling water mixed with the same amount of cold water and then the water is wrung out. It must be sterile so as to avoid contaminating the area.

Apart from warm packs, it is important to note that women who receive compassionate care before, during and after childbirth were more likely to handle perineal tears well. Support includes providing proper information, continuous care, understanding as well as compassion. Women who receive proper care during this time are more likely to go for further support and interventions to help with any injuries they may have sustained during birth.

One is less likely to have a perineal tear if they:

  • Give birth in an upright or side-lying position
  • Are giving birth to a subsequent baby, not the first
  • Have a warm pack applied to their perineum during delivery
  • Birth the baby’s head between contractions or slowly
  • Are active during labour and birth
  • Get a perineal massage in late pregnancy
  • Receive proper care from midwives

Perineal tears seem like a scary thing but the pain is definitely not comparable to that of childbirth. This isn’t to diminish it in any way but to let you know that if it does happen to you, don’t panic. Talk to your caregiver and ask them to help you get through it. Ask for proper care because it’s your right and because you’ll heal better with it.

The Third Stage of Labour

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