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Thread: Keeping perineum intact

  1. #1
    julesr Guest

    Default Keeping perineum intact

    Hi there

    This might be a question for the midwives - I'm currently doing the childbirth education classes at my maternity hospital and they showed us the stats for the month of July. There were only 15 intact perineums, and 66 were either unsutured tears (I remember it was 11 for that category), sutured tears or episiotomies. I was quite shocked by this and asked if this was a "bad" month - to which I was told it was actually pretty good, and better than June.

    The one thing that does worry me about labour is tearing/episiotomy. I always believed that since a woman's body is designed to give birth, tearing or episiotomy would be the exception rather than the rule, rather than the other way around, and that I would be "unlucky" if this happened to me. So I'm feeling a bit unsettled at the thought that it's quite unlikely I'll get through labour with an intact perineum - at least, according to those stats!



    So...my question is - does perineal massage really help? I know they say they have no hard scientific evidence that it does, but I thought the midwives out there might be offer an educated opinion or some anecdotal experience...?

  2. #2

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    Rates of tearing and episiotomies are much higher in hospitals than they are at homebirth where the woman's body is left to do it's thing. Private hospitals are also worse for this than public. Being flat on your back on bed is not helpful to this yet this is what most women do for some or all of their labour, which is certain if you have an epidural. Not only does the chance increase from this, but once you have the epidural which can then lead to ineffective pushing (can't feel it properly if at all) then forceps may be used which often means an episiotomy.

    Hospitals are there to control and manage the process of childbirth which doesn't run in our favour as birthing women. They have policies to protect themselves, speed things up and this often means these interventions. So you have to inform yourself about what you don't want, your rights etc.

    Giving birth in water is brilliant for supporting the perineum as is birthing upright. Warm compresses can be used, and Ina May Gaskin has a manuvure she successfully uses which is discussed in one of her books.

    Also when in fear, or anxious, some women don't relax their pelvic floor/perineum and the pushing fights against this - so educate yourself outside the hospital (New Active Birth by Janet Balaskas or The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth), get great support and trust your body!!! It is capable of blowing those stats out the water.
    Last edited by BellyBelly; August 14th, 2006 at 08:32 PM.
    Kelly xx

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  3. #3
    Melody Guest

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    Jules I had a 4.13k bub (9lb1oz) & did no masage with no tearing at all. I think when you logically conclude that passing a medium watermelon (for want of a better object) through a hole designed for a lemon some women will inevitably tear & some wont.

    This goes to variables like skin elasticity, size of the baby etc. Experienced & patient midwifes can minimise risk by asking you to wait, stop pushing (which can be a big ask at that point) & realigning skin/bubs head etc.

    If perenial massage will give you a sense of mental preparedness then go for it, that can only be a benefit but my personal opinion is that, as with all statistics, it is truly a numbers game. Some tear & some dont.

  4. #4

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    I read somewhere that rubbing Almond Oil daily on the perineum from 32wks on can help?!?!

  5. #5

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    hi
    i think it depends on the way the baby is sitting, when i had my dd 3 weeks a go i needed one as she got stuck he had a ring around her head when she was born

  6. #6

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    I think when you logically conclude that passing a medium watermelon (for want of a better object) through a hole designed for a lemon some women will inevitably tear & some wont.
    I think apart from the other things I mentioned, the psychological aspect can be a biggie too. If you think about the above comment in labour, you are only going ot be less reluctant to let the baby come freely as you are waiting to tear. One mum said that she envisaged a walnut coming through a toilet seat to relax the area and baby was born fine and well.

    Also, if you take a look at the stats I posted for tearing / episiotomy for homebirth, it's a massive difference to that in hospital. So it's not something to expect to tear. Do your research and find ways to minimise intervention which relate to tearing and episiotomy. It's amazing that many, many midwifes with tens of years of experience never perform them or have had to perform them once. Doesn't this say something?
    Kelly xx

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  7. #7
    Sal Guest

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    we are talking about a piece of flesh either being able to stretch to accommodate, or alternatively unable to stretch to accommodate (and hence tearing). I don't see how psychology enters into it. That would be like saying that women get stretch marks on their belly because psychologically they are reluctant to allow their skin to stretch to accommodate the baby bump. Some women have more collagen and their skin is more pliable (lucky ducks!) whereas others are bound to stretch and tear. Of course having a forceps delivery will virtually guarantee tearing, but I don't think that's what Melody is talking about. BTW Melody you lucky duck not tearing at all with such a big bub!!

  8. #8

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    Until you support women at birth Sal, you just wouldn't understand You need to try to relax the perineum - and come on, how many of us do because we don't get told, or we are so scared of tearing, the 'ring of fire' etc if you haven't had an epidural. Fear of birth and pain is an absolute epidemic and psychological blocks are a big problem - I have seen many of them first hand in births where there has been past sexual abuse, generally feeling 'unsafe' and fear of 'tools'. It is possible to be so tense and fearful that you tighten up in places you never thought possible and nor-adrenaline kicks in and the whole process stops or as observed by midwives and doulas, even goes backwards. My teacher has been studying it for years, based on books written on the topic by further experts on the psychology of birth and the way it's changing.

    If for a moment you can think with an open mind for a second and take into account the experience of many, many midwives who trust in a womans body to stretch (and know how to help naturally), they are the keepers of normal birth and have NEVER had to perform an episiotomy or perhaps once in their life you will be open to new things and realise the system is less than ideal, infact hideous compared to countries like NZ, Holland, Europe... rather than have blind faith in the medical system. How come a country so well, healthy and abundant has such poor ratings in the outcomes for birth reports? We are well down the list. You can be happy with a great outcome in terms of baby being safe, but who goes into birth wanting their OWN body to be cut, forced and pulled about? Thats not our idea of a peaceful, beautiful birth perhaps romantacised about prior to. Look at it from a textbook perspective if you may but I'm sorry, thats not the way real-life is.
    Last edited by BellyBelly; August 14th, 2006 at 08:24 PM.
    Kelly xx

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  9. #9
    Sal Guest

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    So I can blame my multiples tears on my psychological state? No way! I tore because Miles had a big head (37cm) and because my skin doesn't have all the pliability that I'd like it to have, which runs in my family. I also got stretch marks on my belly because it runs in the family to get stretch marks.

    I'm just not sure that it's helpful for women to think that if only they have the right mindset that they will definitely remain tear-free. It actually sets up for feeling worse about the experience afterwards...how easy for others to then just say 'oh well you weren't relaxed enough'.

  10. #10

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    I am not saying this is the case for all women but I definitely think this is something to consider given so many of us are fearful about birth - someone made a comment about a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon. Doesn't paint a nice picture. So try to picture a walnut going through a toilet seat and give it your best shot. But many women do have an episiotomy when it is not required. Hear examples all the time of the scissors being suggested or gotten out and the baby is born fine or even shoots out quickly - another thing to do with fear called the 'ejection reflex' has a place too in the birth room... there is just not one answer for everything, or one problem, I like to start with the least interventive, first.
    Kelly xx

    Creator of BellyBelly.com.au, doula, writer and mother of three amazing children
    Author of Want To Be A Doula? Everything You Need To Know
    Follow me in 2015 as I go Around The World + Kids!
    Forever grateful to my incredible Mod Team and many wonderful members who have been so supportive since 2003.

  11. #11
    Sal Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by BellyBelly
    I'm sorry, thats not the way real-life is.
    Hmmmm. Real life, in African countries with third-world medical facilities, leaves a frightening number of women with horrific obstetric injuries (and deaths of mother and/or baby) and complications (eg obstetric fissures). It is nice to do the 'back to nature' thing and encourage women to try for as natural a birth as possible, but how lucky that it can be done with a first-world medical safety net.

  12. #12
    Melody Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by BellyBelly
    someone made a comment about a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon. Doesn't paint a nice picture
    That would be me and as far as a common-sense, logical example of your probability to tear vs. getting through tear-free goes..... it is spot on. No emotive 'la la' language used at all. The question was "Does perineal massage really help?" & you responded with all sorts of IMO 'fear based' language around high interventions & episiotomies in private hospitals.

    I very much doubt that a woman at the 'business end' of labor is going to be thinking of watermelons.... so my clear response about skin elasticity & the size of the baby seems as relavent as any response anyone else made AND YET you still chose to come in & "one-up" me....

    "Anyone who is pleased with a highly intervented birth is kidding themselves"
    I had an epi in a private hospital with a team of midwives & a wonderful obstetrician & he had forceps at the ready.... if Hunter was in danger I would beg him to use them.... I am in no way delusional about my satisfaction at holding a healthy baby in my arms, we can't all give birth in the bush under the stars.....

    In the context of whether or not perenial massage helps? the answer is debatable but the contributing factors are not. Skin elasticity, size of baby & attending Ob/Midwife.
    All the emotive & condascending language in the world won't change that.

  13. #13

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    You are comparing third world to Australia? Please.... They have no support there - no midwives to guide them or help them, no medicine, no nothing... sorry but I wont change my mind. These women have nothing, poor nutrition, poor health, we have education about birth, midwives who are prepared to be by their side and we have books to read about active birth to help us avoid all that. They too are probably scared out of their brain knowing what happens to women before them. Why don't you do further study or reading and specialise in birth psychology - you might find it interesting and helpful to so many women...
    Last edited by BellyBelly; August 14th, 2006 at 09:52 AM.
    Kelly xx

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  14. #14

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    Ladies, our bodies are amazing and designed to stretch, open and give birth to babies. It just shows how far we have to go if you truly believe otherwise.

    I think you took my comment out of context - we wouldnt care if intervention saved our baby, but no-one willingly wants to be cut, forceps etc if its not necessary.

    So little confidence in women's bodies as it is, I am trying to help reduce that fear and keep things as normal as possible (while still saying some intervention is needed), but too many continue to feed it...

    Again, we are in the top few of the healthiest, welthiest countries, but in terms of outcomes and intervention at birth, we are waaaaay down the list. It's KNOWN that we have far too much intervention and we aren't going to change things unless angry mothers get loud voices and say that this isn't what we want. But the amount of women truly confident in their bodies, their rights and willing to do that is very low.
    Kelly xx

    Creator of BellyBelly.com.au, doula, writer and mother of three amazing children
    Author of Want To Be A Doula? Everything You Need To Know
    Follow me in 2015 as I go Around The World + Kids!
    Forever grateful to my incredible Mod Team and many wonderful members who have been so supportive since 2003.

  15. #15

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    Fear of birth and pain is an absolute epidemic and psychological blocks are a big problem - I have seen many of them first hand in births where there has been past sexual abuse, generally feeling 'unsafe' and fear of 'tools'. It is possible to be so tense and fearful that you tighten up in places you never thought possible and nor-adrenaline kicks in and the whole process stops or as observed by midwives and doulas, even goes backwards.
    Kelly (and anyone else who could help), I don't want to hijack this thread at all, but I have a question regarding this comment and any advice you can give as I find myself in this situation (past sexual abuse). So much so that I have trouble relaxing enough to let my husband 'in', so to speak, when we make love (and we have been together for almost 6 years!). I am not sure that my fear will allow me relax enough to let the baby pass through, although I realise that a lot of that is out of my control anyway.

    I have looked into waterbirth as I think that will really help a lot and feel I could do it then (maybe in combination with dimmed lights), but unfortunately the only place that does waterbirths where I live is fully booked. The private birthing suite of my public hospital does have a bath but I dont think they allow birthing in the water, only labouring, and besides I am a public patient.

    Do you have any advice on how I could best prepare myself? I would really like to try for a vaginal birth as I think it will be very empowering, and besides I have issues with csearean anyway and lack of feeling and control of that area - and feel like the only way I would cope would be if my husband were to be able to 'stand guard' for me in the theatre! So sorry about this, but this is my greatest fear, more so than then pain of labour etc.
    Last edited by babydustplease; August 14th, 2006 at 05:07 PM.

  16. #16

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    Babydustplease....I'll be giving birth to my first soonish enough, and in terms of best preparing myself I firstly read all the birth stories on BB, read up all of the threads in labor and birth, and best of all, read 'New Active Birth' by Janet B.....it is such an encouraging book for us preggies to read.....so much so that I'm looking forward to labor and birth without any fear (that might come in a few weeks time though!). This may sound naive, but as they say, 'knowledge is power' and the more positive you are about your bodies capabilities, the better off you are.....
    You can also find solace in the fact that I should be giving birth seven weeks ahead of you, and if I can do it then you can too!

    ps: Kelly, I love that walnut/toilet seat thing!

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    babydust, what state are you in? I would recommend HypnoBirthing for you as a possibility but you might find that it makes you feel vulnerable. If you are in Melbourne, contact Diane Gardiner - she has a website of her own name and has some great results. Past sexual abuse can be tricky, you need to do lots of work on you and lots of healing - there is a great book, 'When Survivors Give Birth' I think by Penny Simkin - grab a copy of that too. I also have some women's healing course details that has been forwarded to me not long ago, so let me know what state and I will give you more info.
    Last edited by BellyBelly; August 14th, 2006 at 05:25 PM.
    Kelly xx

    Creator of BellyBelly.com.au, doula, writer and mother of three amazing children
    Author of Want To Be A Doula? Everything You Need To Know
    Follow me in 2015 as I go Around The World + Kids!
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  18. #18

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    Kelly - I just googled her name (Diane) and couldn't find anything... I am quite interested in hypnobirthing (even though ity might be a little late!)

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