How to Care For a Tear After Childbirth

Vaginal tears, also known as perineal tears, can occur when the baby’s head is coming out of the vaginal opening during childbirth. This can happen when the vagina doesn’t stretch easily or when the baby’s head is too large for the vagina to stretch around. These tears can range from damaging only the skin around the vagina to tears that involve the anal sphincter.

How to Prevent a Tear During Childbirth

There is no guaranteed way to completely prevent a vaginal tear during childbirth, but you can take some steps to reduce the risk of tearing:

Prepare to push. During delivery, pushing the baby out slowly and gently allows your vaginal tissue enough time to stretch and make way for the baby. Throughout the delivery process, your health care provider will guide you.

Keep your perineum warm. A warm washcloth on the perineum — the area of your body between the anus and vagina — can help.

Perineum massage. Your health care provider may place two lubricated, gloved fingers inside your vagina and gently move them, applying downward pressure. This helps relax the vagina, which can help the vagina stretch during delivery.

Deliver in an upright position. Rather than lying down on your back during childbirth, try delivering your baby in an upright position to help prevent tearing. Your health care provider can help you find a position that is safe for both you and your baby. 

How to Care for a Tear After Childbirth

After delivery, your health care professional will close the vaginal tear with stitches. The stitches dissolve on their own, so there is no need to have them removed. It is normal to notice pieces of the stitches on toilet paper after you use the bathroom or on sanitary pads.

Small tears may close on their own and not require stitches.

Placing an icepack on the area between your vagina and anus can help relieve swelling and pain.

Recovery from a tear after childbirth is painful at first but gets better over time. Pain commonly is felt when walking, urinating, sitting, and having bowel movements. A tear usually heals in about four to six weeks. Your health care provider can help you get a better idea of how long it may take for you to recover.

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How to Care For Yourself At Home

Your health care provider will recommend a follow-up care plan for you and your baby. Make sure to keep all of your appointments and contact your doctor with any questions or concerns.

You can also help your body heal by performing some at-home care:

  • Rest when you’re tired and get plenty of sleep.
  • Keep a healthy diet.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Try to walk every day. Walking helps prevent constipation and boosts blood flow.
  • Shower and take baths as normal, gently pat dry the incision.
  • Put an ice pack on the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Keep your vaginal area clean by pouring warm water over your vagina and anus after you use the bathroom.
  • Sit in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes 3 times a day, and gently dry your vaginal area when finished.

Medications for Tears After Childbirth

Your health care provider will be able to tell you when you can start taking your medications again. They can also give you recommendations for new medicines.

If you have pain, take pain medications as directed by your doctor. This may include prescriptions or over-the-counter options. If you take aspirin or other blood thinners, consult your doctor before you start taking them again.

If your medications are making you feel nauseous, let your doctor know. They may recommend taking your medicine with food or switching to a different medication.

Things to Avoid When Healing From A Tear

Your health care provider will be able to tell you when you can start taking your medications again. They can also give you recommendations for new medicines.

If you have pain, take pain medications as directed by your doctor. This may include prescriptions or over-the-counter options. If you take aspirin or other blood thinners, consult your doctor before you start taking them again.

If your medications are making you feel nauseous, let your doctor know. They may recommend taking your medicine with food or switching to a different medication.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 04, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Mater Mothers’ Hospital: “Recovering from third and fourth degree perineal tears.”

Mayo Clinic: “Labor and delivery, postpartum care.” 

NCT: "Perineal Tears Recovery and Care."

Newton-Wellesley Hospital: "Postpartum Pain Management." 

American Urogynecologic Society: “Third and Fourth Degree Perineal Tears.”

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