What is it?
While it sounds unpleasant (or downright scary), tearing is actually a common birth injury that most women recover from quickly and without complication. Tearing is the term for lacerations to vaginal tissue during birth. While the surge of estrogen, elastin and relaxin prepare the vagina to become more elastic for labor and delivery, it is quite common for tearing to occur, most often when the baby’s head and shoulders are emerging from the vagina.
Tears can occur on the skin of the perineum, the region that connects the vagina and the rectum, and can range from small, superficial abrasions, which require no stitches at all (30% of vaginal births require no stitches) to mild tears, which require minimal stitches. More rarely, deeper muscular tears can occur, which require more repair.
How common is it?
Very common: 85% - 90% of first-time births result in vaginal tears. Rates of tearing are lower for subsequent births — where roughly 60% tear — as well as for those giving birth with midwives. Factors influencing the extent of tearing and type include:
- Delivery method including giving birth laying down (higher rates) versus upright (lower rates)
- Use of forceps (more significant tearing)
- Speed of childbirth (prolonged second stage of labor has higher rates)
- Fetal size (larger weights have higher rates)
- Where the delivery takes place geographically
- Cultural and local practices
How long does recovery last?The length of recovery depends on the type of tear. There are four degrees of tears, with the vast majority being first- and second-degree minimal tears.
What can be done about it?
Here are some remedies that provide temporary relief and may speed healing:
- Pain relievers
- Peri wash bottle
- Numbing Spray
- Sitz bath
- Cold packs
- Witch hazel
- Donut-shaped cushions
- Stool softeners
Where can I get all this stuff?
We curated a kit that is an all-in-one vaginal delivery recovery solution. We tested 5 of the leading sitz bath tubs and selected the one that had the most secure and comfortable experience. We then used research to craft Sitz Salts and Peri Spray that are made with healing-promoting ingredients but also smell like the spa (cucumber and peppermint which have cooling properties). Lastly, we include a postpartum recovery bundle, as well as a custom tote bag to tuck your sitz tub into so that even while it is always within reach, it can also be discreetly out of sight.
What can be done to prevent it?Throughout your pregnancy and labor, there are measures you can take to prepare the perineum and vagina for birth and minimize tearing, though there is no guarantee that they will be effective.
- Prenatal perineal massage
- Warm compress
- Body positioning during labor
- Minimizing certain factors
- Controlled pushing
When should I be worried?If the pain at the site of tearing or stitches is severe, persistent or increases, and if you have an elevated temperature over 100.4, it’s important to talk to a doctor, because those could be signs of infection. If tearing is extensive, talking to your doctor or midwife is often the first step, since they can refer patients to specialists, like urogynecologists, colorectal surgeons or pelvic floor therapists.
Bare Mum does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.