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How to prevent tearing during childbirth?

Written by Emma McGeorge

We’ve all heard about perineal tearing during childbirth. And if you’re pregnant you’re probably wondering how you can minimise or avoid it. The good news is, there are plenty of things you can do to be proactive and prepare your perineum for labour.

Massage, warm compresses and different perineal management techniques are widely used by midwives and birth attendants to promote stretching during labour and help women who give birth vaginally avoid tearing, episiotomy and instrumental delivery (forceps or vacuum).

But before we get into the tips, it’s worth noting that whether you tear or not can depend on so many factors. And if you do tear, it’s ok! Recovering from a minor perineal tear doesn’t have to be a big deal. 

But we know you’re keen to avoid it, so here goes.

Give massage a go

You can help prepare for childbirth by massaging and gently stretching your perineum. From around the 34-week mark, massage this area twice per day using a natural oil or lubricant – we’ve got plenty of lubes that will do the job quite nicely. During the massage, place your fingers just inside your vagina (don’t go any further than three centimetres or so) and press downwards towards your bowel for around a minute. You’ll experience a light stretching sensation – this is exactly what you want. But we think it is better to show you what you mean so here is a video we prepared earlier with womens health expert Brooke Hile from Her Health Physiotherapy.

If you’re still unsure you can also ask your pelvic health specialist to show you and your partner how to massage your perineum in preparation for childbirth.

Assume the right position

Labouring on your back can increase the chance of tearing because it reduces the size of your pelvis. Alternative positions that may minimise damage to the perineal area include squatting, standing, kneeling, lying on your side, or getting down on your hands and knees.

Check out our blog Pro pregnancy tips for a healthy pelvic floor for more information on birthing positions.

Heat things up

Studies have shown that applying warm packs to your perineal region during childbirth reduce the most severe tearing, promote stretching, soothe the area and soften the skin. Applying warm packs during labour has also been shown to lower pain during recovery and even reduce urinary incontinence down the track!

Our TendHer reusable feminine pads are perfect for this! Plus you get two in a pack so one can be warming while the other is in use.

Go slow

You’re so excited to meet your new baby (and you’ve probably been in labour for many hours) when it finally comes time to push. So, it’s tempting to go as hard and fast as you can. But slowing down allows your tissue to expand more gently and can prevent tearing. When it comes time to push, ask your midwife for instructions and listen to them when they tell you to slow down!

Get a pelvic floor check-up

All women should be getting regular pelvic health check-ups but it’s especially important during pregnancy. A good pelvic health specialist can prepare you for labour by teaching you what it feels like to push effectively and can help you nip any emerging pelvic floor issues in the bud.