I can guarantee “tearing” is one of the aspects most women fear about childbirth.
Most women have heard so many horror stories of tearing from here to there during birth, or being cut and then tearing anyway. Sounds horrific right?
Well, would you believe me if I told you, most of these women were probably forced to lie on their backs, had an epidural and were told when to PUSH? Or they were told they had to have an Episiotomy so had no chance to “not tear” anyway.
Would that surprise you?
Would that make YOU question what YOU could do in YOUR birth to minimise risks of tearing?
Well damn, I hope so – and that is why I am here. For you to question, research and not just say “Yes Sir/No Sir/Three bags full Sir/M’am!”
Before I get started, I know women who have had Episiotomies, tears, grazes and nothing at all. At the end of the day – we will heal!
But we need to go into birth with knowledge so we can be empowered at the end of our experience.
I didn’t tear with either of my babies.
One baby came out arse (I mean buttocks) first, and the other came out at 41+something weeks. I practiced all of the below tips and tricks.
1 – Perineum Massage (NO to EPI-NO)
You may have heard of Perineum Massage. You may have heard it will STOP any tearing.
Well this isn’t accurate.
If you do peri massage – it should give you an idea of the stretching feeling you will get when you start stretching around your crowning baby – this is by far the most important thing about Peri Massage.
Familiarity – feeling the familiar sensation when the time comes, will be less of a shock – this will allow you to relax rather than tense up.
You shouldn’t STRETCH yourself to the point of hurting yourself, because frankly your body hasn’t got the hormones to allow you to stretch like it would when in labour.
AND for the love of god – don’t use the EPI-NO.
There has been research that has shown woman who have used this device, have had small microscopic tears. This is before labour has even begun! Can only imagine what happens to an already compromised area with tension?
Again – your body isn’t ready to stretch to 10cm when you are not in labour, so don’t force it.
Photo Credit – Unplash
QUOTE from Dr Rachel Reed
“There is a rather scary device called an Epi-No designed to use during pregnancy to stretch the perineum. The limited research regarding the effectiveness and safety of this device is inconclusive (Kovacs, Heath & Campbell 2004; Shek et al. 2011). Personally I worry about potential long term effects of repeatedly stretching the perineum to the size of a babies head. Although a woman may give birth a number of times during her life, she will usually have more than a day between each baby’s head stretching her vagina. It is also a reflection of our technocratic culture that a ‘device’ is considered to be necessary in order to prepare for childbirth.”
2 – Relax and Breath
Practice relaxation techniques throughout your pregnancy and birth.
Relaxation breathing is hugely beneficial for yourself and your body. Let your body take over and relax into it. Trust your body wholey and soley.
In a lot of birthing classes / independent childbirth education classes and Yoga you will hear, “open Jaw, open Cervix” remembering to keep your jaw as relaxed as possible through your labour and surges will have an immediate effect on you cervix and opening.
The best way to remember to relax your jaw is by putting your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
Keeping your hands and shoulders relaxed.
This is best achieve by encouraging your birth partner/s to stroke the inside of your hands, rather than you crazily SQUEEZING their hands like you see in movies.
Shoulder massage or even just placing firm hands down on your shoulders is a good way to keep your shoulders relaxed.
Filling your body with oxygen is a HUGE benefit to you and your baby through labour and birth. By oxygenating your body and your babies body – your uterus, blood, cervix and more will all be working at its optimal capacity.
Breathing in through your NOSE to the count of 4!
And out through your NOSE to the count of 6 or 8!
Photo credit – Unplash
Nose breathing is proven to be more beneficial for brain activity, your body and your lungs. It also shows more controlled breathing when breathing through your nose for both breaths.
3 – Alternative Methods to Medical Pain Relief
There are many alternative methods of pain relief than what is offered in hospital. Below I have listed a few of those alternatives.
- Acupressure and Massage
- Relaxation breathing
- Water Immserion
The main reason I encourage mothers to attempt birth without an Epidural is because of the effects the Epidural not only has on the hormones your body produces throughout labour, but also due to the fact you are not able to birth the way your body needs/wants to.
In most cases when you get an Epidural you are not able to move around freely. You could be stuck on your back, unable to move much, you won’t feel your body’s contraction or when your body naturally starts to push.
In the case of an Epidural, your provider will be watching the monitors and telling you to push when “they” deem your body is ready (according to the computers), not when “YOU & YOUR BODY” are ready to push.
4 – MotherDirected Pushing
This is by far one of the most important aspects of minimising tearing on your perineum while birthing your baby,
You would have seen in movies or sitcoms, mothers laying on their back with their legs up in stirrups and an entourage of people shouting “PUSH……PUSH…….PUSH!”
NO NO NO!!!
The best way for a mother to “push” or as I like to call it “bare down” is when her body literally takes over and does it without the mother having to even try.
If you have had a physiological start to your labour (no induction, no epidural, no intervention) your body will quite literally just DO IT.
It’s quite a weird sensation, from one minute to the next, you are having a normal intense contraction/surge, and then the next minute your body just takes over and pushes……………you can’t stop it, you can only embrace it and let go.
I clearly remember with my first born, the “urge” to push – and thinking “What in the holy hell is this, I can’t stop it” and pushing as if I was having the most amazing AGB (haha) – if anyone doesn’t know what an AGB is………..hit me up offline to this – [email protected]
You can train yourself to “Breath your baby down”, or “Breath through” the pushing, but if you need to push? I can nearly guarantee you and your baby are ready to meet each other very very soon.
People telling you to push, screaming at you to push harder – ARE NOT in your body, they DO NOT know what is happening and finally THEY ARE NOT your perineum – so how in the world would they know when to push, or when not to push?
END RANT (for this one anyway)
5 – NO EPISIOTOMY
Episiotomies – those nasty things that are nearly a “routine” cut for birthing women in hospitals.
Do yourself a a favour and just say “NO” to an episiotomy.
Firstly, if you’re cut, you’re cut. You may have never torn, but now you have been cut.
Secondly, they cut through;
- Nerve Ending (Clitoris nerve endings as well)
Thirdly – did you know, you are more likely to tear when you have an Episiotomy?
I give you this challenge. Take a piece of paper, use some scissors and cut a line down. Now pull the sides of the paper to mimic more tension on the paper (perinium)………….Tell me your findings?
Your body will heal a natural tear a lot quicker than it would an Episiotomy.
6. Upright / Active birth
And for my lucky last, and probably most passionate tip – it’s a whole different blog.
Being upright and active throughout your birth is so important – let me redirect you to a previous blog I have written.
Photo credit – Unplash
I hope some of these tips have resonated with you and have warranted you to ask the question, or at least prompt you to do your own research.
Remember knowledge is power – and power is damn beautiful!
My name is Jackie O’Neill, I am a Doula who is inspired to help and support Women through their pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. I strive to keep myself informed with the most up to date evidence based information and resources.
“Live your life, Love your body, Birth your way”
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