Vaginal tearing during delivery is nothing new. In fact, as per a survey, 90% women suffer a vaginal tearing during delivery. While most women get cold feet at the very thought of vaginal tearing, it is essential to remember that vaginal tears are not as scary as apprehended and has a quick healing time. In fact, with a little care and precaution, it is possible to avoid severe vaginal trauma.
What is vaginal tearing?
In medical terms, vaginal tearing is a deep tear that happens without a doctor’s intervention in the area between the rectum and the vagina. The tear is often found to be a result of the body response while pushing the baby through the vagina. The best-case scenario during the delivery is that the vagina stretches just enough to push the baby’s head through without tearing.
What are the chances of vaginal tearing during a delivery?
Since the tissue near the vaginal region is not flexible enough, the chances of tearing are relatively higher during delivery. Further, factors such as fast birth, being overweight, a delivery that involves forceps, vacuum, long labour, to name a few, can also trigger vaginal swelling, which, in turn, may lead to vaginal tearing for the mother. Surprisingly though, a second birth is less likely to witness vaginal tearing.
What are the different types of vaginal tearing?
Depending on the severity, the vaginal tear may be a first, second, third, or a fourth-degree tear.
A tear that affects only the lining of the vagina without interfering with the muscles is known as the first-degree tear.
A tear that involves deeper tissue tear requiring a few stitches is termed as the second-degree tear.
A tear that involves the inner layers including the muscles affecting the anal sphincter is known as the third-degree tear.
A fourth-degree tear, on the other hand, involves tearing through multiple layers of tissues in the rectal lining. It often requires a lot of stitches with a higher healing time.
What is the downtime?
A first or a second-degree tearing can take up to two weeks-time to heal. Possible side-effects or complications include - discomfort while sitting up, bowel movement or any such activities that exert downward pressure can hurt. However, by the second week, the wound starts to heal, and the stitches get absorbed. A tear of third or fourth degree can take up to four-five weeks to heal. The pain might last for a couple of weeks. Some possible complications include urinary problems, pelvic floor dysfunction, a problem during intercourse (painful intercourse).
How to avoid vaginal tearing?
While there is no hard and fast rule to avoid tearing, there exist some good practices that can save a pregnant woman from the hassle of vaginal tearing:
Preparing the body is one of the starting points to ensure no tearing takes place during delivery. Some exercise (under the expert guidance or as recommended by the doctor) can go a long way to improve the blood flow. Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels play a significant role to improve the pelvic floor muscles to sustain the pressure of the baby popping out from the vagina.
While it is essential to keep the body hydrated, a nutritionally enriched diet (Omega-3 fatty acids, good fats, fruits and vegetables, limited intake of lean proteins) can help the body cope up with the pressure of delivery.
The birth position also plays a crucial role in deciding whether someone faces vaginal tear or come out with flying colours. It has been observed that a semi-reclining position or lithotomy position increases the tendency of a vaginal tear.