Vaginal tearing is one of the biggest fears moms have when it comes to delivering their bundle of joy. Lets face it, that's not a pleasant thought and not something any wants to have happen. SO...If there's ways to help minimize the risk, wouldn't we all want to know?! Absolutely!
Here are 6 tips for you to prep ahead of time and in day of to help reduce the risk of tearing.
We naturally tense up our bodies as a response to pain so this is going to be counter-intuitive, but in order to help avoid the risk of damage to your pelvic floor, stalling labor, getting exhausted, and creating more potential problems, relaxing your muscles is exactly what you need to do. As difficult as it might seem, it is important to focus on surrending and allowing your body to do its job. The amazing thing is, as you relax your muscles during labor actually encourages it to produce more oxytocin which will aid in your labor progressing more smoothly. Being tense throughout labor also leads to fetal distress. This step is especially important during the pushing stage of labor. Remember to relax your muscles.
When you lay down flat on your back, it does not help your body in a natural delivery. Your position will play a big role in how you deliver your baby. Some positions that are far better than laying flat on your back include: squatting, standing, and being on all fours. Finding any position where you can keep your pelvis perpendicular to the ground, will aid in the process. As you are upright, your pelvic is more open which along with gravity as your aid your baby will more naturally decend. Doing this reduces your need for excess pushing and does lower your risk for tearing!
What does this look like? Your body knows how to give birth, it was designed for it and as you relax and surrender into the process it will happen a lot more smoothly. Resisting to the process of labor actually increases the chances of tearing. This goes hand in hand with the first tip. Allowing your body to go with the flow, will aid your body to be receptive to the contractions and open. If you opt in to a natural labor and are able to feel everything that's taking place, you will feel your baby descend through the birth canal. You will then feel the stretching of your vagina to accomodate the baby. Avoid letting someone encourage you to do too much, instead you want to let your body guide the pace. Don't be afraid to let your midwife or doctor know you are ok with going slow. As your baby's head begins to crown you might experience what is known as "the ring of fire". It will feel like a burning or stinging sensation in your vagina. This is normal, and part of the process, as you let your body set the pace, you will not only reduce the risk of tearing, but will preserve your energy as well.
The Evening Primrose oil is known to help ripen and ready your cervix for labor. It is safe to start taking orally in a supplement form once you are 34 weeks pregnant. At 37 weeks it's a good idea to start using it vaginally. The most common and effective method is to use a sterilized needle to puncture a hole in the capsule and insert it into yoru vagina. Put it in before bed so it will stay in place better and it's a good idea to use a pantyliner to get what your body doesn't.
One of the oldest and maybe most reliable tips for reducing your risk of tearing, is to massage your perineum for weeks leading up to labor. This will help soften, relax, and even stretch the area in preparation for the big day. In case you're unsure, your perineum is the area between your vagina and rectum. Feel free to do this yourself and or ask your partner to assist. It can be a good idea to use the primrose oil from the previous tip in this routine. Be sure hands are washed and nails are trimmed to avoid risk of infection. One method that is affective to do for 5-10 minutes every day for the last 6 or so weeks of pregnancy is as follows: hook your thumb about an inch or so inside your vagina. Then you gentrly press to the sides as well as towards your anus. As you do this, try your best to relax the area.
There are a lot of benefits of a waterbirth. Here's a cool one though....warm water can help prevent even the worst of tearing! Not only that, it has been shown to lower the stress hormone during your labor. Nowdays, many hospitals allow water births. It is something you'll want to talk with your doctor or midwife ahead of time and even your partner and doula. If you don't want an actual water birth, you can always opt in to a bath or even a warm shower in the early stages of labor to aid in this as well.
Good luck! And may the odds be ever in your favor! They are sure to be more in your favor as you incorporate these 6 tips!