Tips For Healing If You Tear 'down There'
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You may have heard horror stories about tearing after giving birth. Don't freak out! There are ways to stay comfortable as well as ways to avoid tearing in the first place.
Understand different degrees of tears
Hopefully, you won't tear at all during delivery, but if you do, the type of healing and care will depend on how severe the tear is. There are four degrees of tears:
- A first degree tear only involves tissue around the vaginal opening. You may not need any stitches but may be uncomfortable for a little while, say while going to the bathroom.
- A second degree tear also involves the perineum area — this is the area between your vagina and rectum. You'll need stitches and recovery will be longer. You may be uncomfortable while sitting and using a pillow or inner tube can help.
- Third degree tears involve the muscles of your rectum and can take months to heal.
- Fourth degree — ouch! — is the most severe type of tear and can lead to problems with bowel movements and painful sex.
Healing from tears
Healing and care after tearing during childbirth can involve everything from placing ice packs in your underwear or squeezing a bottle of warm water around the affected areas to needing to sit on a pillow or inner tube while you recover.
A sitz bath can also be helpful. Midwife Kimberly McGuiness-Rook, C.P.M., L.M., says, "Sitz baths help in several ways. The warm water helps to increase blood flow to the area that needs healing." She created an herbal sitz bath to help new moms recover from tearing. "The herbs are extremely effective at tissue regeneration. In our specific blend we also use several different therapeutic grade essential oils to aide in healing and staving off infection. Lastly, each of our bath blends include pure pink Himalayan sea salt. The sea salt is very effective at reducing swelling and aiding healing on a cellular level."
Be sure to check with your midwife or doctor before using herbs or aromatherapy.
How to avoid tearing
Until you're pushing out your baby, you won't know if you'll tear, but there are ways to avoid tearing during birth. Push in an upright position like squatting or on your hands and knees instead of laying on your back. Ask your doctor or midwife to use oil for perineal massage or apply hot packs around your perineum while you push. Unless there's an urgent reason to have the baby delivered quickly, avoid getting an episiotomy — a surgical cut in the perineum — because studies show that the risk of a third or fourth degree tear increases if you get one.
Bottom line? (Er, literally!) Let labor progress normally, take your time pushing and push in an upright position. If you do tear, remember to rest and stay comfortable while you recover and enjoy life with your new baby.