It's common for the perineum to tear to some degree during childbirth, but here are 6 things you can do to lower the risk of tearing.
Up to 90% of first-time moms who have a vaginal birth will experience some sort of tear, graze or episiotomy.
It is slightly less common for mothers who have had a vaginal birth before.
For most women, these tears are minor and heal quickly. But some women will require surgery to heal their tears.
6 things you can do to lower risk of tearing
- Try birthing lying on your side, or kneeling on all fours: Your healthcare professional will work with you so that you can birth in your chosen position. A kneeling, or all-fours position, or lying on your side, may help reduce the severity of tearing.
- Use a warm compress on your perineum during pushing: Again, this can help reduce the severity of tearing.
- Try perineal massage throughout your pregnancy, especially if you're a first-time mom: From 35 weeks onwards, you or your partner can use daily perineal massage until your baby is born. This is particularly beneficial for first-time mothers. Massage can help reduce the likelihood of needing an episiotomy or having a tear that requires stitches.
- Breathe your baby out: Have you heard of hypnobirthing? Its techniques encourage you to take deep breaths during the pushing phase of labour, which helps your vagina and perineum relax and should lower the risk of tearing.
- Ask for support: You could ask your healthcare professional to hold a warm compress on your perineum during the birth.
- Slow and controlled birth of your baby: Research has shown that by controlling the speed of the birth of your baby’s head and shoulders, the incidence of severe tears can be reduced by 50%. The healthcare professional will watch your baby’s head advancing, placing gentle pressure on your baby’s head if necessary, asking you to breathe or pant and not push as your baby’s head starts to crown. This allows your perineum to stretch in a slow and controlled way.