Sitting firmly at the top of most women’s birth concerns is that niggling or sometimes screaming fear that she will ‘tear’ during second stage (pushing).
This worry can be so acute for some that it can actually effect their anxiety levels, causing their body to become tense and actually make them more likely to require stitches. So by just knowing the best way to avoid tears you’re reducing your anxiety and therefore already less likely to experience a problem!
I have created the below list in an effort to help you reduce your anxiety and also to provide you with practice tools and ideas you can use now or during your birth. Enjoy!
Ask Yourself ‘Are Erections Terrifying?’
Find me a dude that dreads getting aroused. The penis is built to stretch (some more than others *snigger*) and then return back to its normal size. This causes no great panic at all.
Well, news flash, your vagina and vulva are designed to do the very same thing! Birthing your baby’s head is something your ‘wonder down under’ is ready and waiting for! This idea that women who birth more or bigger babies are left with stretched genitalia is frankly bullsh*t. Think of it this way, is your body going to betray you at the very last moment after growing this hugely complex little person and then guiding you through the process of labour? No, she knows what she is doing and your job is to trust!
VIVA LA VULVA! She got this.
Stand and Deliver!
The position you choose to birth your baby in (or on occasion, the position you find yourself unable to move from!) can impact the effectiveness of your crowning stage (when baby’s head emerges from the vagina). Research shows that being in an upright position such as standing, squatting, kneeling on all fours or perched over a support will reduce the likelihood of vaginal trauma (tearing). Birthing a baby while lying on your back is, thankfully, flying out of fashion. However, be aware that it still exists and, sadly, is encouraged by a small number of professionals. You may also find yourself recumbent after opting for an epidural or if you have agreed to be continually monitored (which usually requires you to lay with straps around your tummy which monitor baby’s heartbeat). Fear not, you can still try out an ingenious little device called a peanut ball! This peanut shaped version of a birth ball is placed between your knees as you lay on your side and allows you to take the pressure off your tail bone and opens your pelvis without baby having to work uphill when crowning.
Waterbirth for the Win
So waterbirth is all kinds of awesome! Not only does the water have pain relieving qualities (the warmth is soothing and the cocooning can make women feel safer and more secure) but the weightlessness allows women to find more comfortable positions. The water can also serve or reduce the instances of vaginal tearing. This is because the warmth of the water assist the perineum in stretching by encouraging blood flow in that area. Water is also a lubricant of course so baby is more likely to slip out with ease in a waterbirth. If you are unable to access a birth pool you may like to consider the use of a warm perineal compress which also encourages blood flow to that area as baby is crowning.
Now you may have heard of perineal massage and immediately felt the urge to hide behind the couch but it is worth reading on and opening your mind to the concept. My support of perineal massage isn’t actually based on the perceived physical impact it supposedly has but the mental one. I believe the process of firmly and religiously massaging the perineum (the area of skin between the vaginal opening and the anus) desensitises you to the sensation and will allow you to be more relaxed when you experience the crowning of your baby’s head (or bum if you are the ultimate breech birthing badass). You can find perineal massage instructions easily on google or YouTube and my advice is to have your partner do this for you with very gentle massage oil such as Apricot Kernel oil. Each evening you/your partner should increase the pressure of the massage slightly so that you are building a tolerance.
Now, let me be clear... YOU ARE NOT STRETCHING YOUR PERINEUM. Your vagina is the same vagina, its just ten times more kickass because its training for birth. Do not let anyone tell you that perineal massage is causing your vagina to become bigger, stretched etc (I’ve heard people say this *groan*). Tell them to shut the hell up and report directly to me for schooling on the magic of the vag.
Mantras & Meditation
Oh you scoff now but I promise you that the power of the mind over the physical body is real! When attending my meditation training last year we were encouraged to close our eyes (you can try it with someone) and picture an enormous, ripe, bright yellow lemon sitting in front of us. The skin is beautifully plump and the aroma is flowing through our nostrils. We pick up a knife (all imaginary remember) and slowly begin to slice the lemon in half. As the knife breaks the surface the juice sprays and flows from the flesh. The smell of the fresh lemon is overwhelming. We cut a half again and are left with two large juicy segments. We lift one of the segments and slowly bring the sour flesh to our mouth. Just as we are about to bite in.... we stop. I ask you now, is your mouth watering? Yes? Well, the lemon is in your imagination. You just created a physical response using your mind. TaDa!!!
We can do the same with our birth. By using mantras such as ‘open’, ‘loose’, ‘slowly and safely’ we can encourage our bodies to do exactly what we need them to. Try meditating each day or night for five minutes and focus on the sensation of your vaginal opening slowly and confidently growing and stretching. Really feel your baby’s head encouraging you to open gently and safely. Say the words you choose for your own mantra softly to yourself. You can either do this in your head or out loud. Try it, you’ll definitely feel the benefits.
Hopefully these tips resonate with you. You really can use them with any vaginal birth and you can start to practice them now! Go forth and birth like the badass you are!
All my love