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Although I’ve given birth vaginally twice without any perineal trauma, the thought of tearing during childbirth still makes me squirm in my seat. This type of birth injury is actually very common. According to the ACOG, between 53 to 79% of vaginal deliveries will include some type of laceration (vaginal trauma). Check out what these 9 moms have to say about their their experiences with tearing during childbirth.
While these numbers may seem alarming, the good news is that most of those lacerations are superficial (first degree), and require little to no stitching at all.
Although it’s pretty much impossible to predict whether or not you’ll experience tearing during childbirth, there are some things you can do during labor to minimize the risk of perineal trauma.
5 Tips To Avoid tearing during childbirth
Relax your muscles
Our bodies tense up in a natural response to pain. To avoid damaging your pelvic floor, slowing down or stalling your labor, getting exhausted, potentially increasing your risk of medical intervention, it is important that you relax your muscles.
I made the mistake of tensing up during labor with my first baby. I was so worried about pooping (something that very commonly happens during labor) that I was trying to keep my butt shut, while while attempting to push at the same time. I had no idea that I was forcing my pelvic floor muscles into a round of tug-of-war. I ended up getting quite exhausted and my daughter was born with a cone head… which disappeared after a couple of days. The 2nd time around with my son, I knew what not to do. I was just focused on surrendering and allowing my body to do its job. As a results, I labored for no more than 20 minutes, and my son was born without a cone head. I had a ton of energy afterwards and my postpartum recovery was a breeze. Thank God!
Relaxing your muscles during labor loosens up your body, encouraging it to produce more oxytocin, a hormone that stimulates contractions, and helps labor progress smoothly. From the tips of your toes to your brows, muscle relaxation also promotes proper breathing which is important because when you tense up your muscles in response to pain and hold your breath, your baby gets deprived of oxygen. This can cause fetal distress.
During the 2nd stage of labor, which is also known as the pushing stage, as you begin to feel pressure on your rectum and perineum, you may naturally begin to tense up your pelvic floor muscles. What you want to do instead of this is, relax those muscles as if you’re peeing. When you hold your pee, you are tensing up your muscles, preventing your bladder from emptying itself. During labor you need to do the exact opposite.
Listen to your body
How do you listen to your body?
By simply relaxing and surrendering yourself to the process. Allow your body to go through and endure the natural physiological process of labor without resisting (tensing up). By doing so, your body is open and receptive to the contractions, as opposed to holding back and preventing it from doing its job. One of the benefits of natural labor that I really enjoyed, was being able to feel everything that was taking place inside my body. From the decent of my babies through the birth canal, to the stretching of my vagina to accommodate them, being able to feel that process allowed me to identify what my body needed.
It’s important to follow that natural flow rather than to be coached or to do “too much” on your own. By doing so, you are keeping the same pace as your body, preserving your energy, reducing the risk medical intervention, and tearing during childbirth. When your babies head begin to crown, you will start feeling a burning or stinging sensation in your vagina. This is known as the ring of fire. That’s your body telling you to slow down, as your vaginal tissues stretch to accommodate your baby’s head and body. Pushing during this stage may cause you to tear. Instead, slow down and breathe through the stretching. Not pushing during this stage is crucial, your contractions will expel your baby.
Don’t forget how you can manage labor pain naturally by packing your FREE labor relaxation guide in your hospital bag!
Control your breathing
Whatever you do, don’t hold your breath. Breathing has a direct impact on your body’s response and ability to labor efficiently. “Purple pushing” is the term that is commonly used when describing holding your breath as you push during labor. This method of pushing goes against your body’s natural instincts. It increases the risk of tearing, fetal distress, medical intervention, and it also lowers your blood oxygen levels.
Poor breathing directly affects your baby by lowering the amount of blood carrying oxygen to him/her so it is important that you breathe while you push.
Some women prefer taking quicker, controlled shallow breaths, while others prefer longer, and deeper breaths. Either way is fine as long as it’s controlled.
Rushed, erratic, shallow breathing causes an increase in the amount of adrenaline release into your body, tightening up your body, and increasing your sensitivity to pain.
Breathe your baby out
Contrary to what we’ve been told for many many years, you don’t have to put push with all of your might to deliver your baby. Your body is well able to do so on it’s own.
Did you know that your body can birth a baby even if you happen to be in a coma? Yep.
You really don’t need to push unless you feel an irresistible urge to do so. Relax your bottom and breathe your baby out pushing only when prompted by your body so as to prevent exhaustion, trauma, and medical interventions. For me, pushing as my body led me to do, helped relieve the pain and pressure I felt in my bottom.
Be in an upright position
Positioning plays a big role in how you birth your baby.
Any position where your pelvis is perpendicular to the ground facilitates a smoother birthing experience. Some examples of this are: the standing, squatting, and the supported all fours positions. I instinctively birthed both my children in the squatting position. If you’re concerned about tearing while in the squatting position, have a look at this study. You want to take advantage of the pull of gravity.
Being in an upright position opens up your pelvis, and encourages the descent of your baby, while reducing your pushing efforts and lowering your risk of tearing.
I hope that you found these 5 key tips on how to prevent tearing during childbirth helpful!
Until next time,
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