How To Avoid Tearing During Labor

If you are an expecting mother, there is a good chance you’ve thought about the kind of labor and delivery you want to have. Perhaps you’ve researched the process, weighed the pros and cons of a home birth versus a hospital birth, or even contemplated what medications you want during your laboring process. One of the main concerns that expecting mothers have when it comes to vaginal delivery is tearing.

While tearing during labor is actually quite common, it happens for various reasons. According to the Mayo Clinic, tearing during childbirth is also called perineal lacerations, and it occurs when the baby’s head is too big for the vaginal opening or when the vagina hasn’t stretched enough to accommodate the head size. However, understanding why tearing occurs and what causes it is the first step in being able to prevent it!

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Related: Is It Better To Naturally Tear Or Have An Episiotomy?

Consider A Water Birth

Water births have become more common due to the relaxing nature of warm water. Sitting in a birthing tub during painful contractions can provide some relief and make the birthing experience more enjoyable.

According to American Pregnancy, the water causes the perineum (the skin between the vulva and the anus) to become more elastic and relaxedwhich reduces the risk of tearing and reduces the severity of a tear.

Use Primrose Oil To Ready Your Cervix

Primrose oil is one of the more natural remedies that have been known to ‘read your cervix’ and better prepare your body for labor and delivery. Starting in the third trimester, you can take evening primrose oil capsules orally. According to Fairfax OBGYN, these evening primrose oil capsules can be taken up to three times a day with meals starting at 38 weeks.

An alternative method is to place the evening primrose oil soft gel deep inside the vaginal canal at night, which allows it to work directly on your cervix while you sleep. However, this can only be done if your water bag is still intact and there’s no vaginal bleeding.

Start Eating Dates In Your Third Trimester

While dates are a delicious snack that can be eaten throughout the entire pregnancy, they are especially helpful during the third trimester. This is because dates have been shown to ripen a woman’s cervix and ease the labor process. At around 35 weeks, start including around six dates a day in your diet.

It’s easy for dates to become a go-to pregnancy craving as well. For those who enjoy dates, snacking on them just the way they are should be no problem. However, if you find that you don’t love the flavor on its own, try dipping dates in peanut butter and chocolate, adding them to smoothies, or even as a topping to your morning oatmeal.

Give Yourself A Perineum Massage

Giving yourself a massage down there may sound awkward or uncomfortable at first, but it’s important to remember that your vagina is a muscle that can stretch and then return to its normal shape. Just like you wouldn’t attempt to do the splits without any previous stretching, many women don’t want to go into childbirth without any previous preparation.

Massaging the perineum in the weeks leading up to labor has been shown to soften, stretch, and relax that area. Starting at 34 weeks, you or your partner can massage that area for five to ten minutes every day. You can insert two fingers or your thumb about an inch into the vagina, and press from side to side and then back toward the anus. It’s important to try and relax as well.


Don’t Lay Flat, Deliver In An Upright Position

In almost every movie or television show, there is a woman lying flat on her back in a delivery room, screaming in pain while trying to push out a baby. While lying flat on your back has been extremely normalized in our society, it may not be the best or easiest way to give birth.

According to Pregnancy Birth Baby, It is not recommended to lie on your back in the early stages of labor because it can prolong labor and even reduce blood supply to your baby. Evidence Based Birth states that for women who don’t have epidurals, there are benefits of upright labor, including:

a lower risk of abnormal fetal heart rate patterns, less pain, and less use of vacuum/forceps and episiotomy.

Don’t Push Until You Feel The Urge

The key here is to listen to your body. There may be people telling you to push, or you may be so done with labor that you want to get your baby out as quickly as possible. However, this is the moment to remember your birth plan goals.


If you don’t want to tear, it’s best to avoid pushing until your body is physically telling you it needs to. This is important because pushing your baby out gently and slowly, while your body is having contractions, can give your tissue time to stretch instead of ripping due to a forceful push.

Stop Pushing When Baby Is Crowning

Once your baby’s head starts to crown, WAIT! This moment is pivotal when it comes to preventing tearing. It’s okay to tell your doctor or midwife that you want to go slow and that not tearing is a priority to you. Some say it’s best to ‘breathe the baby out’ and to let your contractions guide you.

Resisting the urge to push, especially when you feel ‘the ring of fire’ or the burning sensation that crowning can cause, will give your skin time to stretch and prepare for baby’s head. Going too fast will increase the risk of severe tearing or an episiotomy.

Use Warm Compresses On Your Perineum

Just like a warm bath can help prevent tearing, placing a warm washcloth on the perineum during the second stage of labor can help to soothe the muscle and reduce the risks of tearing.

According to My Expert Midwife, warmth not only helps blood vessels dilate, but it increases blood flow which improves the flexibility and stretch of the tissue.

Trust The Process

Trusting the labor and delivery process can sound like a terrifying idea. There are so many unknowns when it comes to giving birth to your baby. While a healthy baby is a priority, it’s okay to have desires about the way they are brought into this world. It can be easy to stress or get anxious about the perfect birth plan for you. However, trusting the process is not only about believing in your body’s incredible capabilities, but it’s also a surrender.

Accepting that some aspects of this journey might be out of your control will help create a healthy mindset going into birth. It is also important to remind yourself that it’s okay to grieve the birth you thought you were going to have if things don’t go as planned. Every emotion is valid and focusing on having peace with your decisions during this time will only benefit you and your growing family.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, American Pregnancy, Fairfax OBGYN, Pregnancy Birth Baby, Evidence Based Birth, My Expert Midwife

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