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Giving birth to a new life, a baby who is your flesh and blood, is one of the things that makes womanhood special. The process is surely not easy. The pregnancy and its culmination in labor and child birth are perhaps the most terrifying and exhilarating period in a woman’s life.
A pregnant woman knows that she will have to deal with a lot of pain and prepares herself for it, as she nears the end of the pregnancy. The pregnancy may end with a C-section or a natural birth. The healing process is quite different for each method of child birth.
With a C-section, the abdominal wound and the stitches need to heal before the new mother can function as before. With a natural birth, she would have to deal with wounds in her private parts that need to heal.
The cervix and the vagina are very elastic and do expand to let the baby pass through but the mother may still incur some wounds or tearing as a result of the expansion of the passage. The tearing can be more intense if the mother is having her first baby. With all future babies, the tears may not be as extensive.
Vaginal tearing is not a topic that is discussed when talking about child birth. It is important that a mother-to-be understands the kind of damage that may happen during her delivery, so that she can take steps to prevent and heal it effectively.
Today, we shall talk about vaginal tearing and everything you need to know about it. Read on for more information.
What Exactly Is A Vaginal Tear?
Any tearing of the vaginal tissues that happened naturally and was not done purposely by a doctor is called a vaginal tear. This usually involves the perineum or the area that lies between the rectum and the vagina. The baby's head can roughly be the size of a melon and the vagina has to expand to let it through. The doctors take all the steps to prevent a vaginal tear, but the chances are that a tear will still happen.
How Common Is Vaginal Tearing?
Almost all first-time mothers receive vaginal tears of some sort or the other. This is because the tissues of a first-time mother are less elastic when compared to a woman who has had children before. The chances of vaginal tearing or laceration increases in the following instances:
• If the mother is overweight
• If the delivery happens faster than normal
This is because, the tissues of the vagina do not have enough time to adapt to the baby's head.
• If the baby is in a difficult position
If the baby is in a breach position or is in a position that proves difficult for birth, the vagina will have to deal with the extra pressure and may sustain some tears.
• If the delivery is assisted with the use of forceps or vacuum.
The application of forceps and vacuum cup in the vagina can be difficult and it may cause some damage to the vagina.
• If the labor is too long
A labor that is too long will cause the vaginal tissues to swell up. The swollen tissues are more likely to tear when the baby passes through.
What Are The Different Kinds Of Vaginal Tears?
There are four kinds of vaginal tears that can happen during child birth. They are differentiated depending on the intensity and the involvement of the tissues in the tear. They are all painful and require some time to heal. They may need stitches too. But the good thing is that, the tears that happen commonly are the simplest one.
This tear only involves the vaginal lining. The muscles are not involved in the tear. But these may still need some stitches.
A first-time mom is more likely to sustain a second-degree tear. The vaginal lining and the tissues that lie beneath it (submucosal tissues) are involved. They will need stitches.
This tear will involve the muscles of the anus. The different layers will need careful suturing and the muscle that supports the sphincter will need special attention.
This vaginal tear will involve all the tissues talked about in the earlier categories and then will extend into the rectal lining. The suturing for this kind of a wound is very complicated and many different layers will need to be closed. This is a very rare kind of wound that is not commonly seen/it usually happens when a baby's shoulder won't pass easily or where a forceps or vacuum is used.
Healing Of The Wounds
The first and the second kind of tears are the easiest to heal. Even then, you can expect pain and discomfort. It will hurt when you have your bowel movements or cough and sneeze. Six weeks is the time that the wound usually needs to heal. Sex may be uncomfortable even after the said six weeks.
The healing process of the third and the fourth-degree tears will be much harder. A bowel movement can hurt for the first month and you may be asked to take foods rich in fibre, along with stool softeners. Sitz baths and cold packs will help reduce the discomfort.
Sex may be out of the question for at least a couple of months. Talk to your doctor about any discomfort or symptom, as they may be related to potential uterine or pelvic floor prolapse or urinary problems.
Is An Episiotomy Good?
Episiotomy is an incision that your doctor may make to help widen the vagina. It is thought that a controlled and intentional tear like an episiotomy will be easier to treat and heal than a natural, uncontrolled tear.
It is no longer routinely performed and it is done only if it is absolutely required. This is because recent research has shown that the damage done during the process is more in most cases and the healing takes more time too.
Using An Ice Pack
Every two hours, use an ice pack to cool your privates. Do not apply it for more than 20 minutes at a stretch, as it can cause nerve damage. You can start using the ice pack within the first 25 hours. Doing this will reduce the swelling and will help with the pain.
Consuming A Stool Softener
Pooping will be difficult for a couple of days after the birth. You may be constipated after the child birth. If you use pressure to get things moving, you risk the stitches coming loose and further worsening of the tears. A good amount of water, fibrous food and some stool-softening pills will help you immensely.
Practice Good Hygiene
Your privates will be sore and you will probably be bleeding. But you still need to make sure that you keep the area clean and as dry as possible. Each time you go to the toilet, clean the area and dry it gently and thoroughly. Apply any healing ointment that you may have received from your doctor. The sanitary napkin must be changed regularly. Twice or thrice a day, pour or squirt some warm water to prevent infection.
It might be hard to sleep or rest when you have a baby. You will heal better if you rest as much as possible. Physical activity should be restricted to the bare minimum for at least 6 weeks post-partum. Exercise and sex should be pushed back till your doctor gives you the go for it.
A salt water bath will help to speed up the healing process. The salt in the bath will help kill bacteria that can cause infection in the wound. It also helps in sucking the water out from these areas which helps it heal faster. Sit in a bath tub of warm water with a cup of salt added to it. Make sure that the salt is of a good quality.
Witch hazel is a herb which has healing properties. It can be bought from the market as an astringent for it to be applied topically. It helps in cleaning the wounded area and tightens the skin. This helps in stopping the bleeding and helping the wound to heal better and faster.
Sit On A Cushioned Surface
Use a cushion or a donut pillow to sit. It will help you to be a little more comfortable and will help deal with the pain too. You will have a better blood circulation this way and will also not have back pain anymore.
When To See The Doctor
• If you have bad smelling discharge.
• If you have a fever.
• If you seem to have an increase in pain.
• Increase in swelling.
• If you have too much of clots in your menstrual discharge.
• Severe pain in the lower abdomen.
• If you have problems in controlling the bladder or bowels.