So I'm writing this article for all of you mommas who have torn after labor and need some guidance as to how to encourage healing and what helps comfort that soreness. First off, not all women tear from a vaginal birth... and most women don't typically get a third or fourth degree tear (only about 2 percent of women), especially not a internal tear. But for all of you pregnant ladies who are pinning this article for later, here is what the various degrees of tears look like:
- First degree tears - are considered "superficial tears involving the skin of the perineum and the tissue around the opening of the vagina or the outermost layer of the vagina itself, but no muscles. These tears... are often so small that few or no stitches are required. They usually heal quickly and cause little or no discomfort." (1)
- Second degree tears - "go deeper, into the muscles underneath. These tears need to be stitched closed, layer by layer. They'll cause you some discomfort and usually take a few weeks to heal. The stitches dissolve on their own during the healing period." (2)
- Third degree tears - "is a tear or laceration through the perineal muscles and the muscle layer that surrounds the anal canal. This requires stitches and can take a similar time to a 2nd degree tear (two months or so), if not longer, before the wound is healed and the area comfortable." (3).
- Fourth degree tears - "goes through the anal sphincter all the way into the anal canal or rectum. Most women with this condition will have no ongoing problems, with the appropriate management (including good personal hygiene by you, diet, physiotherapy, pain medication and laxatives)." (4).
As I mentioned earlier, I had a third degree tear. I had this level of a tear because I was induced, had an epidural, labored on my back, and pushed non-stop for three hours. But the doctor did a great job sewing me up, and the hardest part then was the recovery and moving afterwards.
A few hours in the postpartum area of the hospital, and I realized I could not sit or move easily because of the tear. Here are the things the helped me not only in the hospital but recovering at home:
- Buy an Inflatable Donut: This is so cheap and a great way to relieve the pressure of sitting on the tear. Inflatable donuts usually cost any where from $5 to $15 (at Walmart or Walgreens).
- Sitz Bath: Most hospitals give you this for recovery after labor. But if your hospital doesn't initially, ask for one. These are amazing and so helpful for recovery. It helps relieve inflammation and is so comforting. Just fill with luke warm water and sit in it for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Perineum Bottle: This too should be given to you after labor in the postpartum ward. This is great to relieve pain while peeing. You just fill it with luke warm water and squirt while urinating. Both the sitz baths and the perineum bottle also help to keep the area clean.
- Witch Hazel Frozen Pads: I cannot express enough how helpful this is to relieve pain from a tear! After birth, you will be leaking lochia anyway (it's like a heavy period that lasts for two months or so)... so you will need to wear rather large pads. The frozen witch hazel pads help to ease the perineum pain, while preventing leaking. Another plus, is that witch hazel is comforting and has anti-inflammatory properties! Here are instructions on how to make your own frozen witch hazel pads.
- Take Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is safe to take while breastfeeding and is the lesser pain killer that is offered by hospitals. I took one a day for the first few weeks, and it helped a lot with the pain.
- Take it easy. I know this is hard to do. You want to get things done, you want to move around, but in order to let everything heal properly you have to take it easy. Rest. Sleep when baby sleeps. Take care of yourself. You will have plenty of time to get stuff done in a few months, do not worry about what needs to get done now. I did not take it easy at first and pushed myself after having Toddler P. I am a doer, but the problem is my body wasn't ready for that. Thankfully I didn't hurt anything, it just set me back a few days. So I'm going to say it again, take it easy and rest. Enjoy your newest bundle of joy!
Did you tear when you were in labor? What helped with comfort and healing for you?
Need more information on vaginal tears? Here is a helpful link.