I’ve been a doula for a long time now. One thing I have noticed about women that I work with is that they all seem to have one thing in common- they are all scared to death ( or at least concerned) of what will happen to their vagina during the birth!
They have questions like “will it burn?”, “what is the ring of fire?”, “will the doctor cut me?” “will my vagina go back to normal?” All of these are not only valid questions but they deserve answers!
Anatomically, the actual part of the body women are concerned about is called the perineum. It is the tissue, skin, and muscle located between the anus and the vagina. Talk about a tender spot! Now add in the fact that is put under a tremendous amount of stress and pressure during the second stage of labor and it’s no wonder we’re all afraid of what might happen.
There are ways that you can protect this highly sensitive place during labor. The ways I have found most helpful in preventing tears during birth are the following:
- Sit in a tub of warm water during labor for as long and as much as possible to help those tissues become soft and stretchy.
- Allow your uterus to continue to contract even after you are fully dilated until you feel an unmistakable urge to push that takes over your whole body before you start pushing. This allows the baby to gradually descend and place pressure on your perineum rather than all at once. This technique is called “laboring down”. It is the best way to push with an epidural.
- Ask your doula or nurse to use a warm compress during your laboring down time.
- Push as your body tells you. If you feel a strong sensation and urge, push strong and hard. If you feel the need to grunt, then grunt away.
- Listen to the doctor’s voice as he/she gives you direction on when to STOP pushing. The doctor or midwife can see when your body is moving the baby too fast. You want nice slow and steady progress especially at the end.
- Give your perineum time to stretch and relax by blowing, and breathing with control through the last part as the baby is crowning. It will burn, this is the ring of fire, but it will be better to prevent tearing.
- Laughing and coughing can be just the amount of pressure you need to get the baby to move past the perineum and into your hands or the hands of the doctor or midwife.
The fact is that tearing is normal but it isn’t always necessary. Sometimes even all the tricks in the world can not prevent it from happening. Stay in control, stay present, and listen to your body.