Perineal Tears and Your Well-being
by Anita Hill, mum of two children and Founder of Comfyse
Before having children many women don’t really talk about their perineum or pelvic floor. Some don’t actually know what their perineum is. Do you?
I bought a pregnancy and birth book to help educate myself about what was going to happen over the nine months of my first pregnancy and beyond. It’s then I learnt far more about my perineum than I ever had before.
For those of you who aren’t fully aware, the perineum is the surface area between the pubis symphysis and coccyx. In females this is our small fleshy area between our vagina and our anus.
When you go through the childbirth experience it definitely makes you realise just how important your perineum is for enabling you to sit down comfortably and to relax. Unfortunately, what many women find out is how painful it can be to sit down on your perineum after childbirth when it’s bruised or torn.
Statistics highlight that 60-70% of women giving birth vaginally will experience some form of perineal tearing. So just like I found out, many new mums will find it hard to be able to rest and recuperate by sitting down on the sofa after childbirth. Which is not necessarily what we want to hear.
Are all tears the same? No!!!! There are four degrees of perineal tears and the picture highlights how different the tears can be and how significant.
Prevention is better than cure
– how to prevent perineal tearing
- Ensuring a healthy diet with good nutrition is important for your overall well-being, muscle and skin condition
- Stay well hydrated during pregnancy, as this helps your skin and tissue be its healthiest
- Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy, in preparation for labour and birth
- Breathe baby out, rather than use forceful directed pushing; push only when your body feels the urge as this gives your perineum time to stretch
- Use warm compresses during pushing and crowning, to help support the tissue stretching (if you want to use this method during the birth ask your midwife to help and add it to your birthing plan details)
- Birthing on all fours or squatting down as though you’re going to the toilet is thought to help reduce tears, however it isn’t always the case. But both positions utilise gravity and the natural forces for the delivery of the baby.
I chose to birth on all fours. It felt very natural. My tearing was caused by my daughter being ready to come out for some time but space was limited as I had a full bladder! Once the midwife realised this and my bladder was empty, out came my baby.
But remember that you and your caregiver can’t control everything. There may be no way to avoid tearing, especially if your baby is large or in a difficult position, or if you have particularly “fragile” tissue. That’s exactly what I found out. Okay it’s not ideal, but our bodies are amazing and with some TLC, recovery time and pelvic floor exercises, in the vast majority of cases we can help our bodies to recover. Anyone experiencing severe tears (3rd and 4th degree tears) should ensure they have the appropriate follow on professional health support to ensure they recover well).
After the Birth
Any mum who experiences a perineal tear will need to keep the perineum clean.
Having support at home so that you can go and have a bath or shower whilst someone else stays with the baby is very beneficial. It also gives you as a new mum a bit of a break from the baby caring duties that you are doing round the clock. This can be invaluable to your wellbeing – i.e. giving you a 10-30 minutes breather!
Eating fibre (whole-wheat based bread, pasta and brown rice) and a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables can help prevent constipation, which is important because if you have perineal tears the last thing you want is to strain to go to the toilet and tear your stitches.
Some women use a warm compress when they go to the toilet to help support where the stitches have been made in their perineum (and anus). Also running some warm water over your stitches when you urinate can help clean them and relieve any stinging sensation. I tried this and it helped me to feel better when having to do the necessary.
Basically as a new mum, it’s all too easy to forget about yourself and focus on your baby. We all do it! However if you are not well then it’s only natural that you will find caring for your baby harder, which may have other implications on your health, especially mental health. Please do not suffer in silence. Seek help from those you trust and from the medical professionals if you are feeling unwell either physically or mentally after the birth of your baby, whether it’s one week or one year after.
Think “Mum is #1 and your baby is mini #1.” You’re both equally important and you need to care for your baby whilst caring for yourself (with support from friends, family and healthcare professionals).
Due to the perineal tears that Anita Hill experienced after childbirth and the subsequent discomfort she endured, she has created the Comfyse Cushy Cushion which is a new and unique pregnancy and postpartum seating cushion for new mums to sit on to relieve their discomfort cause by perineal bruising and tears.
Come and follow @comfyse on Instagram and Facebook .
Disclaimer – Please seek medical advice from your GP Doctor or Midwife if you are concerned about any conditions or pain that you are experiencing during your pregnancy or postpartum.