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Childbirth Tears
How To Avoid Childbirth Tears

How And Why To Avoid Childbirth Tears!

A child birth tear during labour can cause significant pain and discomfort both at the time of the birth and afterwards. Is there anything that you can during pregnancy and in the build up to labour to prevent the chance of you suffering a child birth tear?

This article explains the small steps that you can take to reduce the risks of a tear.

What Is A Childbirth Tear?

Childbirth tears are natural tears to the skin that happen during labour. They are more likely to occur during a very quick labour or if the birth is assisted by ventouse or forceps or if the baby is in distress and the medical team need to move quickly to ensure the baby suffers as little as possible. They are also now considered to be more likely to happen if the mother has an episiotomy (a medically applied cut to the vagina walls to speed up the delivery of the baby), whereas it used to be thought that an episiotomy would actually reduce the risks of tearing.

Why Avoid Childbirth Tears?

Whilst many tears can be minor with minimum long term complications (these tears being called a first or second degree tear) the more severe third or fourth degree tears can cause significant problems and pain. They can lead to infections, swelling, immobility and in the most severe cases incontinence and pain during sexual intercourse.

Therefore, if there is anything that you can do to reduce or avoid the likelihood of you tearing during childbirth you should do it.

How To Reduce The Chances Of Childbirth Tears.

The first thing you should do, relatively early on in your pregnancy, is to discuss the chance of you tearing during childbirth with your midwife. Explain that you are very keen to do all that you can to avoid this and ask her for her help in doing so. You should particularly ask her to talk to you about how pelvic floor muscles can reduce your chances of tearing, and how to carry out a perineal massage to help the flexibility of your perineum (see below).

Perineal Massage

You should undertake a perineal massage for around five to ten minutes a day from around the 34th week of your pregnancy. This can help to stretch the perineum so that during birth there is less likelihood of it tearing.

Use an oil or a water soluble jelly to carry out the perineal massage (not mineral oil or petroleum jelly but vegetable or wheat germ oil, or K-Y Kelly will work). Start by placing your thumb inside your vagina approximately one third of the way down one side of your vagina. From this starting position, move your thumb slowly down the starting side and then across the bottom of the vagina and halfway back up the other side, all of the time whilst gently stretching your vagina as you do this. Try to relax as you do it and as you become more comfortable with the massage push down a little harder until you feel a tingling or stinging sensation (but do not push any harder once you feel this). This will stretch your perineum and make it more flexible to reduce the prospects of it tearing.

Pelvic Floor Muscles.

You should also practise pelvic floor muscle exercises during your pregnancy. Whilst these are primarily used to help you to learn to tighten and strengthen your pelvic floor muscle, this also means that you will know when your pelvic floor muscle is relaxed. This is important as during labour if you can relax this muscle as you push (fighting the natural tendency to tense it) you will reduce the likelihood of tearing.


These are only small steps, but if you take them and avoid a childbirth tear during your birth, you will have saved yourself a considerable amount of stress, anxiety and pain.

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