For all of the midwife appointments, NCT meetings and reading that we do when expecting, there’s one thing that doesn’t really get the full explanation.
We’re told a lot about how to handle contractions, what to do with our breathing and all about the pain relief options. But, there’s one subject that seems to be avoided – maybe because there is sod all you can do about it.
Your baby may break your vagina.
Singer and new mum Cardi B said in an interview this week that her baby broke her vagina, and she had to be stitched back together. She said no one had told her this was going to happen.
Looking back on my own prenatal appointments, I have to say I had a similar experience. The issue was thoroughly skirted over. I was aware of it of course, but there were no discussions about it at appointments and I didn’t find out much about it during my reading up on giving birth.
I recall a friend telling me she was asked whether she would prefer to tear naturally or undergo an episiotomy during her birth. This was long before I became pregnant with my first, but the very nature of the choice freaked me out. Would I want to tear naturally, or be cut? Can’t I choose neither?
The truth of the matter is that no, no you can’t really avoid it. If it’s gonna happen, it will happen. Around half of all women will suffer a tear of some degree during birth, and about one in seven has an episiotomy (where a small cut is made by a midwife or doctor to help the baby out).
It’s grim, the thought of having stitches down there. I remember reading up on how I could avoid tearing, and reading some nonsense about rubbing olive oil on my lady parts every day. I didn’t fancy oiling up a roast chicken before turning the bottle on myself, it just seemed a bit weird.
Perhaps midwives and NCT teachers don’t want to fan the flames of fear when it comes to giving birth. But isn’t it better that we are told the truth?
Surely it’s better to know you could tear down there ahead of time, rather than being faced with the horrifying situation while also dealing with contractions?
My baby did break my vagina. Then two years later my second baby broke it again. Two second degree tears.
If you’re not in the know, then let me enlighten you. A first degree tear is pretty basic, just a few stitches needed on the perineum, if any at all.
A second degree tear involves the skin and muscles of the perineum – this does need stitches.
A third degree tear involves the skin, back of the vagina, muscles of the perineum and extends to the anus. A fourth degree tear goes right into the rectum.
There’s no point in me saying, oh don’t worry about it. The thought of it makes me shudder still, it’s your vag for goodness sake! And don’t for a second let your other half tell you it’s no big deal. If a man had to worry about fourth degree tears to his willy, there would be no babies.
BUT, please stay with me, because this is important. I do not recall it hurting at all – to be honest the contractions were by far the worst thing about it all. The thought of the pain was the scariest thing about it. When they stitched me up I had pain relief, so I couldn’t feel a thing.
At the end of the day, the idea of tearing or being cut is far worse than the reality. So then, why am I writing this blog post that may well scare the shit out of some poor pregnant person?
Because I think you have the right to know this could happen to you. You should have the right to all of the information, including the fact that if you do need stitches, it’s all going to be OK!
And by the time you’ve had the stitches, there’s a dozen other things to worry about to keep you distracted. Breastfeeding, check-ups, vaccinations, the baby blues and let’s not forget sleep.
I hope my words provide a dose of reality, and a smidge of comfort. If not, there’s always the olive oil. Anything’s worth a try!