This is a very common question that we get, especially from our first time moms! The idea of tearing during childbirth sounds very scary and painful! Lets talk a little bit more about this and hopefully alleviate some fears.

Do All Women Tear?

No, absolutely not! If you try to look up rates of tearing in childbirth it is hard to find good statistics as the location of your birth, number of previous deliveries, genetics, etc all play a role. Women out of hospital have much lower risk of tearing. One reason for this is when you do not have an epidural your body naturally tells you when to slow down as you are pushing to help your tissues stretch as the head is born. As you are pushing we will remind you of this as well! You may hear us say things like “easy, easy now”, or “that’s it, nice and slow”.

Not all Tears are Equal

There are different degrees of tearing with childbirth. The smallest being the most common and worst being extremely rare. Lets break them down a little bit more.

The smallest of tears is what you may hear us call a “skid mark”. These are super minor superficial tears that are more a scratch than anything else. They require no repairs, heal on their own very quickly and may just sting a little when you pee. These are very common and really not a big deal!

The next degree of tearing is called a 1st degree tear. These are a little deeper and sometimes need to be repaired. Often times these tears are small enough and hold themselves together where they will heal just fine on their own.

A second degree tear means it is deep enough to involve some muscle. These tears do need to be sutured but again heal very well! If repair is necessary we use lidocain to numb the area so as to make you as comfortable as possible. Most women the numbing medication works really well and they don’t complain of any pain during the suturing. Certain tears are harder to numb than others and if the tear is in an area that is difficult to numb we first of all only suture it if we absolutely have too, and secondly work quickly. Women that feel some of those couple of stitches say its like a sharp pinch. Again usually numbing medication works really well and you don’t feel a thing!

The most severe of tears is called a 3rd or 4th degree. These are almost never seen at a community (ie. home/birth center) delivery. This is because this severe of a tear is usually only seen with deliveries that required forceps or a vacuum. Again this is not a hard fast rule just a generalization. You are VERY unlikely to have a tear like this!

Want to know some ways to prevent tearing at birth? Check out our blog next week!