More than 9 in 10 women experience tearing during their first vaginal birth. Vaginal tears are extremely common, and it’s normal to have questions about what it means and what to do if it happens to you.
Farly Sejour, MD, Natalie Gould, WHNP-BC, and our team at Solace Women's Care are here to help. We provide comprehensive prenatal care, vaginal delivery support, and postpartum care for women — and if you’re pregnant, here’s what you need to know about vaginal tearing.
Degrees of vaginal tearing
All vaginal tears involve the perineum, which is the area between your vagina and anus. Tears range in severity, and doctors classify them into four degrees:
First-degree tears are the smallest, and affect only the skin around the outside of your vagina or just inside it. We may place a few stitches to ensure you heal properly, but many women find that first-degree tears heal on their own within a few weeks.
Second-degree tears are deeper, and involve the muscles of your vagina and pelvic floor. If you have a second-degree tear, we use stitches to close the laceration. These tears are more painful, and typically take a few weeks to fully heal.
Third-degree tears affect the skin and muscle from your vagina to your anus, and may cause damage to your anal sphincter muscles. You need stitches for third-degree tears, and recovery takes several weeks to a month or two.
Fourth-degree tears are the least common type of tear, but the most severe. These tears go from your vagina, through the perineum and anal sphincter, and into your rectum. You need stitches, and pain may last for several months.
Caring for a vaginal tear
If you tear during childbirth, our team diagnoses the laceration and uses stitches if needed. We inform you of the injury and give you instructions for caring for yourself after birth.
All degrees of tears can be painful, but the severity of your symptoms and how you care for your injury depends on the type of tear you have.
First- and second-degree tears cause pain or discomfort for about 1-2 weeks. Use a peri-bottle to wash and pat the area dry instead of wiping. Consider using sitz baths or cooling pads to manage pain. If you have stitches, they will dissolve on their own.
Third- and fourth-degree tears take longer to heal and require extra care. If you have pain with bowel movements, Dr. Sejour and our team may recommend eating a diet rich in fiber and taking stool softeners until discomfort subsides. Sex may be painful even after six weeks.
More severe tears can increase your risk of longer-term complications like pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence, and pain with sex.
If you continue suffering symptoms long after your baby is born, talk to Dr. Sejour. These issues are treatable, and we can recommend physical therapy and other treatments to help you heal.
Vaginal tears are common, but getting the right care helps you heal. Learn more about what to expect with vaginal delivery and how to care for tears with a prenatal appointment at Solace Women's Care.
Call our Conroe, Texas, office at 936-441-7100 or send us a message to get started.