Written by Sarah Mansell Published on 2nd January 2022

Updated on 11/20/23

We’d love to tell you that they’re very rare and unlikely to happen, but unfortunately, vaginal tears are pretty common. Up to 9 in 10 moms will have one. Vaginal or perineal tears happen due to the baby’s head being too large for the vagina to stretch around and therefore it ‘tears’. It can be a really unpleasant and painful experience for mamas but we’re here with lots of tips to help your recovery.

Are some moms more prone to tearing?

Just like with all aspects of birth, vaginal tears are mostly beyond your control. Who knows if you’re going to end up pooping while you’re pushing, and who knows if you’re going to tear. Vaginal tears can occur in all new moms but there are certain factors that might increase the likelihood of tearing: you’re a first-time mom, your baby has a high birth weight, or you have a long delivery. Some tools can also increase the risk, like the use of forceps or a vacuum.

Are vaginal tears dangerous?

It can be the case that you need a little R&R, or in the worst cases, you might need surgery. Vaginal tears are measured in degrees, from first and second (these impact the skin and some muscles but can usually heal on their own) to third and fourth (these impact the perineal muscles, the anus and, in the most severe cases, the bowel lining). The recovery process differs based on how severe the tear is, ranging from lots of rest to stitches.

How to recover from a vaginal tear

If your vaginal tear is first- or second-degree, then the following remedies will help to aid your recovery.

  • It’s all about managing your pain, so take medication such as Paracetamol.

  • Keep the area clean and have warm baths with unscented or un-perfumed soap.

  • Apply an ice pack to the area covered in a clean cloth. The idea is a cooling sensation and reduced swelling – not freezing your lady parts off.

  • Keep moving but nothing too vigorous. 

  • Eat well and drink water to prevent constipation (straining to go to the toilet can cause further damage).

If you’re recovering from a third or fourth-degree tear, then you will likely require stitches and your doctor will prescribe you painkillers. Plenty of rest is usually the best thing for it, so fire up your Netflix. 

What to avoid when recovering from a vaginal tear

  • Perfumed products near the area.

  • Applying water that is too hot – warm water is best.

  • Positions that may cause the area to tear more like squats.

  • Sexual activity.

  • Tampons, moon cups, or any internal menstrual product.

What precautions should I take if I have had a vaginal tear?

If you’re in the recovery phase there are a number of things that you should be mindful of.

  • If you have stitches, it’s important to keep the area clean and dry with regular washing.

  • Don’t rub soap or chemical washes directly onto the area.

  • Wear loose, breathable clothing to avoid friction and bacteria forming in the area.

  • Avoid smoking as this can hinder the healing process.

  • Avoid heavy lifting and exercise. 

  • Sex – healthcare professionals recommend waiting at 4 to 6 weeks after birth before having sex, but if you're healing from a tear, you might need longer. Stitches, if you have them, should dissolve after 10 days, but your perineal tear might need longer to fully heal. We're not saying sex is off the table forever – but it's important that you're physically and emotionally ready to start having it. Speak to your doctor, health visitor or OB-GYN if you've got any questions or concerns.

Focus on you

There will be a new baby in the house, and while you need to feed them and bond with them, focus on getting better. Don’t make plans for the first few weeks after tearing and try and just relax and rest and build your strength back up. Your body and mind will thank you for it.