What is it?

It is common for women to have some form of tear during a vaginal birth. A tear may happen when the baby stretches the vagina and perineum during birth. 9 out of 10 women giving birth for the first time will have some form of tear in the vagina, over part of the vulva or the perineum.
The perineum is the area between the vaginal opening and the anus. If this area tears, it is called a perineal tear.


What will my healthcare team do now?

Your healthcare team will treat any tears after you have given birth to your baby. This will be based on the type of tear that you have.

First degree tears - These are small surface tears. They do not require treatment but may cause some pain and soreness for a while
Second degree tears - These are tears that affect the muscle and skin of the perineum. They usually require stitches
Third or fourth degree tears - These tears extend into the anal sphincter muscle (third degree) or cause a full tear of the sphincter (fourth degree). This happens in about 1% of vaginal births. Surgery is needed to repair these tears and usually happens soon after you have given birth.


What will my GP do in the future?

At your 6-week postnatal check your GP may ask you if you have had any symptoms of incontinence such as:

  • Leaking urine when you cough, sneeze or exercise
  • Not making it to the toilet in time
  • Not being able to control passing wind
  • Constipation

Your GP may also:

  • Check how your pelvic floor exercises are going
  • Ask you about your pain
  • Perform a vaginal and/or anal examination
  • Refer you to a specialist for assessment, if necessary

Your GP will follow-up around 6 months after birth and may:

  • Ask you if you have had any symptoms of incontinence
  • Ask about ongoing pain or any difficulty during sex
  • Perform a vaginal and/or anal examination
  • Refer you to a continence nurse or physiotherapist, if you need help with your
    pelvic floor function
  • Arrange follow‑up with a specialist, if needed

What can I do?

To support healing and avoid further problems, you can:

  • Keep doing your pelvic floor exercises as directed by your GP
  • Take pain-relieving medication as prescribed
  • Get plenty of rest lying down – this will help the area to heal
  • When feeding your baby, shift your sitting position or feed lying down
  • Get in and out of bed on your side – this reduces any strain to your perineum
  • Drink plenty of water (eight glasses per day)
  • Aim to eat plenty of high-fibre foods (e.g. fruit and vegetables, whole grains)
  • Avoid sex for as long as the GP recommends