Just yesterday I was teaching a birth class and discussing with one of the couples their recent hospital tour. The tour came to the topic of episiotomies and thankfully they are very rarely done at this hospital. HOWEVER- the midwife giving the tour did mention that sometimes they see, "women who just EXPLODE down there!"
Apparently a group of soon to be mothers all looked a little horrified.
And seriously, who can blame them?
In fact, this kind of mentality and those kind of words are the reason that I understand when women choose to just schedule a c-section and avoid the whole vaginal explosion altogether. Seriously, who wants their lady parts to "explode"?
Nobody, that's who.
So, let's talk about this a little.
I should admit my bias- I do believe that we (women) are designed to birth babies. I believe that the tissues "down there" are supposed to and capable of stretching to accommodate the birth of our babies with minimal trauma. In fact, Elizabeth Davis, midwife and author of "Heart and Hands, A Midwife's Guide To Pregnancy and Birth", states that,
"With the vast majority of births, the perineum is intact. Otherwise, there may be a few minor abrasions..."She is of course taking about home births in which women are "allowed" to birth how and in what position they prefer and supported by care providers who understand and can encourage the natural process in a positive way and help support the perineum if necessary.
(The degree of vaginal tearing is show in detail (with illustrations, not pictures) on this website HERE if you are interested in learning about what a first, second, third and fourth degree tear entails.)
It is true, sometimes women do tear badly- but it is relatively rare for a woman to have a third degree or worse vaginal tear. In fact, the RCOG (kind of like ACOG in Britain) says that this happens less than 10 percent of the time.
~Note- Third and fourth degree tears are rare even when women are birthing in less than natural circumstances.~
Let's just do this fast and dirty.
1) Women's bodies (including their lady parts) are designed to stretch during the birth process. Sometimes tearing happens, but it isn't usually severe.
2) If you want to avoid a bad tear then you might also want to avoid
~Birthing on your back
~Having your baby pulled out with a forceps or a vacuum
~Getting your vagina CUT first by your attending care provider
~Being numb from the waist down
~A room full of people yelling at you and counting so that you can "push right."
Ironically enough the same people who seem to think that your body is likely to explode are the same people who are likely to do things that make an explosion more likely.
I think I will die a happy woman if I never again hear women and their bodies described as dysfunctional by the same people who do their best to make the entire birth process dysfunctional by throwing in things like numb, forced, assisted, supine, birth.