Obstetric Lie # 83- Your Vagina Will Explode


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.

The End.


Bethany said…
Actually, my vagina did kind of explode with my second, and I was not on my back or numb or any of the others but the last one. The one where there's a room full of people telling you when to push, how to push, not to push... I had a natural birth. I was being supported in the best squat position ever. But when my son came, HE CAME and everyone was yelling to NOT push but I was just rolling with the freight engine inside of me, and so I pushed!!!!!!! But everyone was saying not to push, so my mouth was closed, my jaw was tight, and I now know that my pelvic floor was NOT relaxed or open or ready. I had gone from 6 cm to birthing a baby in less than an hour, and it was chaos. I have learned a lot about the pelvic floor since then. It's all about Mula Bandha, baby! But instead, i got a 3rd degree tear that required endless stitches and a year to heal. And people wonder why I'm so passionate about the core?
Unknown said…
I had a similar experience to Bethany! My son came quick and with brute force. My husband jokes that he exploded into the world. He will be 4 months on Friday and I still struggle with sitting for extended periods of time. Labor was nothing compared to recovery! Thankfully you are right and this is a rare occurrence!
Anonymous said…
Had a sunburst set of labia tears...at least 3-4 areas stitched and it was botched. I still have a hole in my labia.
A said…
I had a 2nd degree tear with my daughter and I'm not really sure I healed properly. If you asked me in the weeks after her birth, I would have said that I had the perfect natural birth. Now I've had time to think about it, it was still great, but I wish I'd pushed better. They weren't telling me how and when to push exactly, but I think in the moment, I misunderstood. Next time I'll be better prepared (even though I thought I was this time). I'll also deliver the placenta naturally, have bub skin to skin longer, not let gem but bub under the lights, know how to latch for a feed, not let them dress bub so soon. All in all, it was pretty good, and some of those are mInor things and at least she was always in the room with me!!

I love the "let's do it fast and dirty"! Haha!
Michelle said…
I guess it's not often I get to be in the minority (other than with my parenting and birth choices). I had a 4th degree tear with a home, water birth in a full squat position. My problem, I think was that my mind was trying to make my body work instead of just letting it do its thing....so baby barreled out of me...with a possible nuchal arm. But I did heal very well. Intercourse was extremely painful (it always had been but but was just exacerbated). It's better now, 2 yrs later. Sometimes I still have perineal pain, but I think it's just the scar tissue healing (if that's even a thing, it's my theory, lol).
Marlena said…
I had a natural childbirth in a birthing center. I remember the surreal moment where I felt a tear starting. It didn't "hurt" but I could feel that something was happening. I calmly told my midwife that I think I'm starting to tear, she checked and said, "yep, it looks like you are." So I relaxed, imagined everything opening up, and on the next surge, my beautiful daughter was born.
HQ said…
My sister's first baby was born with an epidural. She was told to push as hard as she could when the time came and she pushed him out in 15 minutes. Needless to say, she tore very badly; I don't know if it was 3rd or 4th degree, but she had a sunburst tear. Intercourse was very painful and impossible for months. When her second son was born, he was all natural and he was born with her pushing on her hands and knees. She tore again as she was pushing but before her baby crowned, and she told the birth attendants that she was tearing but they didn't believe her and they stitched her up improperly and left a large flap of tissue hanging. Now, over a year later, she is finally going in for necessary reconstructive surgery. So really, sometimes, there is a near "explosion" when birth happens. Clearly, she probably could have avoided most of this if she had not been forced to push so hard with her first.

I had second degree tearing with both my births. I also had extensive stretchmarks on my belly, the firt appearing when I was still in my first trimester. My theory is that "non-stretchy" skin runs in my family.
Rachael said…
Whether or not a woman's vagina is going to tear or change shape, I think the most damaging thing is using the word 'explode' to describe what happens. Before I had my first, I remember hearing someone say that after they gave birth it was "like hamburger down there." I was TERRIFIED. And it wasn't at all like that. In fact, my recovery was super easy. With my 2nd, he came very fast and it was a lot more raw and tender and swollen etc. Still, it's okay now. In any case, I wish that medical practitioners would stop saying scary things to women who have not been educated nearly as much as they should have been about birth, since that's the norm in our society.
gradchica said…
My 2nd son was 11 lbs and even with his shoulder getting stuck and the OB having to put her hands up in there to ease his shoulder out, I managed to birth him vaginally without a single tear! And no broken bones for baby, either. I can only thank my OB and some apparently super-stretchy lady parts. So if I didn't explode this time, I don't think it's going to happen :-P
Unknown said…
Holy cow! This post is so informative, but it can really open your eyes to all the things that can happen to your body during child birth! It's a little scary! Thank goodness obstetrics know what they are doing or else our bodies wouldn't make it very far!

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