Should women worry about how to heal vaginal tears when they start preparing their birth plans? It’s important to know that vaginal tears are pretty common, but may seem unheard of because it can be embarrassing. That, or the joy of having a new baby can make up for any post-pregnancy complication!
When preparing a birth plan, many women focus on the people they want around them, the kind of music to be played, the environment they want to give birth in (home birth, water birth, hospital birth) and other options. These important factors have a purpose: to relieve some of the pressure and make the experience less strenuous on the mother to be.
However, being aware of post-pregnancy complications like vaginal tears can aid quicker healing. Keep reading to find out more.
6 Things You Need to Know on How to Heal Vaginal Tears
1. Vaginal Tear During Birth
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to control a vaginal tear during birth. But there’s no need to panic. You must at least be aware of the possibility of a tear in the vaginal wall occurring naturally.
Episiotomies used to be the common practice in hospitals a while back. However, natural tearing has proven to, in many cases, heal faster than medical incisions in the area.
There are four degrees of vaginal tearing:
“1. 1st-degree tear- this involves the back of the vagina and the skin of the perineum. These tears usually heal naturally and require no stitches.
2. 2nd-degree tear- the back of the vagina and the skin, as well as the muscles of the perineum, are torn. This tear requires stitches.
3. 3rd-degree tear- this tear extends from the back of the vagina, into the skin and perineum muscles and through the anal sphincter. This tear requires stitches.
4. 4th-degree tear- this is similar to a 3rd-degree tear except it extends all the way to the rectum. This tear requires stitches and takes the longest time to heal.“ (source)
2. Occurrence of Vaginal Tear During Vaginal Delivery
Severe tears occur in less than 2% of cases, while first-time moms are 95% more likely to experience some form of tearing during vaginal birth. Other factors leading up to a perineum tear include the weight of the baby, how long the mother has been in labor, or births assisted by forceps or vacuum.
3. What are the Symptoms of Vaginal Tears?
If you are worried about the symptoms of vaginal tears, know that they are hard to miss. For starters, third and fourth-degree tears must have sutures and the evolution must be kept under careful surveillance. First-degree tears are milder and may not even require stitches, as they can heal naturally. Second-degree tears mean that both the muscle and the skin have been torn.
Complications may include infections, swelling, bleeding, and pain during sex, peeing or having a bowel movement. Otherwise, some level of pain is normal. Sex is off the table for at least a couple of weeks, and there is even the issue of urinary and bowel incontinence in the more severe cases.
4. What is a Vaginal Tear Infection?
Once you start to worry about how to heal vaginal tears, vaginal tear infection becomes an issue, too. This usually happens if the area around the stitches becomes infected, or if the suture was not enough to hold the skin and muscles in place. You’ll recognize an infection when the area around the stitches becomes red and swollen.
A specific smell can accompany the infection as well. Proper hygiene and keeping your hands off the area will prevent infections. However, if you have signs of infection, you should contact your doctor immediately.
5. Doctor’s Recommendations on How to Heal a Vaginal Tear
The good news is that, as we have already established earlier in the article, these tears are rather common and only 2% of the cases are severe. This means you should expect at least some degree of tearing.
But this is nothing that you cannot handle or care for by yourself and in the comfort of your own home. You will not need medical intervention for many cases of tearing. To answer the question of how to heal a vaginal tear, there are various ways around it.
- The most important thing is to keep the area as clean as possible. This includes washing every time you use the toilet and gently drying it by tapping with a clean and dry towel. Pay special attention to this aspect especially if you have stitches. Avoid hot baths as they can cause bleeding, but do use a spray bottle with warm water. Sitz baths are another great option to take away the pain as they relax the muscles.
- Apply ice packs. The golden rule when applying ice packs is that they must not be used for more than 20 minutes and the ice must be wrapped in a towel so as not to directly affect your skin. Prolonged exposure to cold will do more harm than good.
- Stay off your feet. We are aware of what we are asking of you as a new mother, however, rest will speed up your recovery. If you have anyone who is willing to help out around the house, accept all the help you can get.
- Avoid tight clothing or situations that might make you sweat. We already mentioned it is important to keep the area dry. Moistness and sweat are not ok. Crank up the air conditioner if it’s hot outside, limit your trips, and wear loose-fitting clothes.
- Adapt your habits of going to the bathroom to your new situation. You must avoid anything that puts pressure on your abdomen and on the perineum. This means that your stool must be soft enough so as not to have to be pushed out. Stool softeners and a diet rich in fiber are the best way to go about this. Do whatever you can to avoid constipation.
- Prepare for that first period. It will be heavy. This means that your efforts to keep the area clean must intensify. You must change the sanitary pads much more often than you would during a normal period.
- In case of severe pain, your doctor may prescribe a numbing spray. Use it according to his/her recommendations. Also, consult the doctor before using any other type of vaginal tears treatment.
- Use doughnut-shaped pillows. Sitting will not be comfortable and this item can help a lot.
- Hands off! Many women are anxious to speed things along. In doing so, they keep touching the area and they risk spreading germs and disturbing the natural process of healing.
- No sex! At least until your doctor tells you it’s ok. The area needs to heal and the pressure of sex, the bacteria you could get from your partner, and possible UTIs are just other reasons for concern.
6. How long does a vaginal tear take to heal?
Now that we went through the home remedies for vaginal tears, we can address the time it takes for a vaginal tear take to heal. Usually, a small tear can heal in between one week and 10 days. Vaginal tears of the other degrees might take up to a month to heal. It all depends on how well the doctor sutured the area, and how clean it is kept.
Throughout this whole time, you have to do your own pain management and stay out of the cold and heat. We know! This is the last thing you need while caring for a newborn. We are sorry ladies! But just remember that this too shall pass and all that will be left will be your amazing bundle of joy.
Does this sound scary? A little. Just know that there are things you can do to try and avoid this situation, like Kegel exercises, perineal massage every day in the latter months, and keeping the skin warm and relaxed. However, in the end, coping with the idea that all birthing experiences are different and beautiful in their own way will help you through anything. Even with how to heal vaginal tears.
Featured image: wikipedia.org