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FAQ Frequently asked questions
What is an episiotomy?
An episiotomy is an incision (cut) made in the perineum, which is the skin between the vagina and anus. It is performed during childbirth in some cases to reduce tearing of the perineum, or to assist with delivering the baby.
What causes vaginal tears during childbirth?
During birth, the tissues of the vagina and perineum (the area between the vagina and the anus) need to stretch to allow the baby's head to pass through the vagina. If the tissue is not able to expand or stretch sufficiently, tears may result.
How are vaginal tears treated?
More serious vaginal tears may require surgical repair. Pain-relief medication and cold packs can help with pain management and physiotherapy. Pelvic floor exercises may be recommended to help restore muscle strength once the tear has sufficiently healed.
Will vaginal tears heal on their own?
Mild vaginal tears can heal without treatment. Once the baby has been born, your healthcare professional will assess any tears and recommend surgical repair if necessary.
Can vaginal tears during childbirth be prevented?
Vaginal tears during childbirth cannot be completely prevented. However, massaging the perineal area (between the vagina and anus) during late pregnancy may help to reduce damage. Certain practices during labor may also be helpful. You can …
Are there different types of vaginal tears?
Vaginal tears are classified depending on how severe they are. A first-degree tear only affects the skin around the vagina, while the most severe tear, a fourth-degree tear, extends all the way back to the anus and includes the lining of the …
What increases the chances of developing a vaginal tear?
Many factors can affect the chances of developing a vaginal tear during childbirth. Women who are delivering their first baby are at increased risk. The baby's size and position, and factors with labor, such as the need for a forceps …
How common are vaginal tears?
Around nine out of ten (90%) of women who deliver their baby vaginally experience some degree of vaginal tearing. However, only around one of every eleven (9%) of these women have more extensive third- or fourth-degree tears.
About this article
Author: Dr Nikki Wallis PhD, BSc
First answered: 27 Oct 2014
Last reviewed: 19 May 2018
Rating: 4.9 out of 5
Votes: 558 (Click smiley face below left to rate)