As your due date nears, the reality of childbirth is beginning to dawn on you.
How in God’s name are you going to get 8 pounds of human out of your vagay without shredding it to bits?
Well, as tough as it is, it’s actually pretty easy if you know what to do.
Have you ever heard of the famous midwife, Ina May Gaskin?
In her book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, she shares her great theory about vaginas. She believes that they are created to stretch, exactly like male sex organs.
Given the sheer number of humans she has seen exit vaginas, I’m pretty sure she’s an authority on this.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s very possible to give birth without tearing. Even for first time moms!
How well do you know your vagina?
Before we jump into how to prevent tearing, let’s take a quick look at the anatomy of the vagina.
I have included all the parts related to giving birth in the photo below.
Here are 7 Tips to Prevent Tearing During Childbirth
Prepare before baby arrives by keeping your pelvic floor strong. What does your pelvic floor have to do with your vaginal skin? A lot, actually.
When your baby is descending through your body, it’s important to have strong muscles in your vaginal canal so you can help control the speed your baby comes out.
This will give your vaginal skin time to stretch.
If you do 100 kegels/day for the three months leading up to your due date, your pelvic floor should be in tip-top shape for childbirth.
2. Perineum massage
Perineum massage in the weeks leading up to childbirth is a good way to begin stretching the skin.
Beginning at 34 weeks, use a natural oil, such as coconut oil, to gently massage and stretch your perineum.
The best way to do a perineum massage is to gently place a thumb into the vaginal opening, and press down toward the anus until a stretching sensation is felt.
If it’s too difficult to reach around your belly at this point in your pregnancy, enlist your partner to help.
3. Use warm water during labor
Warm water is very effective in relaxing the vaginal area. It’s also helpful for pain relief.
There are 3 ways to use warm water to prevent tearing during childbirth: a pool, the shower, or wet wash clothes.
None of these methods are better than the others. It completely depends on what you are in the mood for during labor.
4. Support the perineum during birth
To support the perineum means to support the baby’s head with one hand while manually protecting your perineum with the other hand.
This is solely the responsibility of the midwife or doctor, unless you are catching your own baby.
If preventing tearing during labor is a high priority for you, discuss this with your doctor or midwife before your due date.
5. Get in the right position to push your baby out
You know how movies always portray women pushing their babies out while laying on their backs? That’s the worst position to deliver a baby. Ever.
It’s a literal uphill battle. Look!
The best thing you can do is to let gravity work for you, rather than against you.
If you’re having an epidural, lying on your back will be mandatory.
But if you are having a drug free childbirth, you should have the freedom to move around as you please.
Get into whatever position feels comfortable: on your knees, leaning on the bed, lying on your side, or even a squat.
Listen to your body, and get assistance from your doctor, midwife, or doula.
6. Relax as much as possible during labor
This is easier said than done. I know, because I’ve gone the drug-free route twice.
The best way to relax during labor is to educate yourself about what to expect.
Childbirth can be scary the first time. It’s a completely new, very intense experience. The more you know about what to expect, the more you will be able to relax and embrace the process.
This could look like:
- Taking a birthing class, such as Lamaze
- Using a form of hypnobirthing such as Hypnobabies (one of my friends found this extremely helpful)
- Hiring a support person such as a doula or midwife who provides classes and educational resources
7. Breathe your baby out
–> If you remember one thing from this list, make sure that it’s to breathe your baby out.
Unless there is a medical emergency that requires you to get baby out asap, follow these six steps to prevent tearing during labor.
1. Resist the urge to push for as long as possible.
This gives your vaginal skin the time it needs to stretch.
2. Loose jaws, loose hands.
This is another one of Ina May Gaskin’s theories.
She insists that if your hands and jaw are loose, your pelvic floor will be too.
3. Birth breathing.
Between contractions, this looks like a shallow panting.
During contractions, let your breaths be long and smooth, emptying your lungs completely.
4. Only push during contractions.
The final stage of labor can be very uncomfortable, so you may be tempted to push both during and in between contractions just to get it over with.
This will always lead to tearing though.
5. Feel your baby.
At this point, you should be able to reach down with your hand and feel your baby’s head.
This is a good way to connect with your baby during the birthing process, and grab onto hope that you will meet soon.
6. Be patient.
Have you seen those videos of a turtle poking its head out of its shell, only to pull it back in again? Wash, rise, repeat.
That’s your baby. She will begin to come out during contractions, then retreat back inside of you between contractions. Not intentionally of course.
Have patience during this time, knowing that it is once again your body’s way of slowly stretching your vaginal skin.
Know your risk of tearing during childbirth
It’s possible to do everything right, and still tear during labor.
That’s what happened to me.
I was moments away from pushing my first daughter out without tearing (did I mention that she was 10 pounds!) when we discovered that she had had a nuchal hand.
That means her hand was up by her face, so she ripped me with her elbow on her way out. There was no way to avoid it.
Enough about my torn vagina. Here’s what you need to know about your risks.
You are more likely to tear during childbirth if:
- You are a first time mother
- You have had a severe vaginal laceration in the past
- You have a large baby
- Your labor goes fast (less time for skin to stretch)
- You begin to push too early
- You deliver on your back
- You deliver with the aid of vacuum or forceps
But just because you are more likely to tear, doesn’t mean that you will.
By implementing most of the techniques listed above (especially breathing baby out), I was about to overcome 3 of the major odds against me.
And if I can do it as a first time mom, so can you.
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