Some women who are approaching their first childbirth are extremely nervous about the size differential between the birth canal and the baby’s head circumference. They are especially afraid of tearing during childbirth which is also known as a perineal tear.
It’s important to remember that the vagina is quite “elastic”, especially during childbirth. It’s designed to stretch and accommodate a baby’s head. Also, a baby’s head isn’t exactly round as you might expect when they are first being born. The bones in the newborn’s head are soft and have spaces between them that help the head make it through the pelvis and birth canal.
But that’s not to say that you won’t tear or that your obstetrician won’t find it necessary to do an episiotomy (when the doctor cuts the perineum to allow more room for the baby to get through). In fact, a first degree tear is very common and can require only a couple of stitches or none at all. Most of the time, you won’t even be able to feel the tear if it does happen and the healing process will barely be noticed as you recover from childbirth and learn to care for a newborn.
But won’t it hurt later?
There will always be an amount of discomfort and pain after childbirth, even up to a few weeks. If the pain related to vaginal tearing is more noticeable than any other pain, consult your doctor. Most of the time it will also depend on the severity of the tear.
But will intercourse hurt when all is supposedly healed? Maybe. It’s different for each woman. Most of the time, though, while it may be uncomfortable at first, months later, everything should be back to normal. If intercourse is painful, your gynecologist can recommend ways to help lessen or eliminate the pain. And again, it depends on the severity of the perineal tear.
How can I prevent a tear during child birth?
Some people insist there’s nothing you can do; if you tear, you tear. Some women, though, suggest doing regular Kegel exercises (repeatedly contracting and releasing the muscle you use to hold and release urine). Others suggest sexual intercourse up to as close as possible before the birth. Some women have also noted that the nurse who aids delivery can massage the vaginal area in a circular motion to help the birth canal stretch. Whether it helps or not is debatable but it can’t hurt to try.
Try to stay away from the horror stories associated with tearing and childbirth. Remember that every woman is different and no one’s story will exactly match what you will experience. Try also to remember tearing is very common and if you do tear, chances are it will be small and you will barely notice, if you notice at all.