Moms everywhere found themselves in a collective wince when celebrity Chrissy Teigen tweeted last week about the perineal tear she experienced as a result of giving birth to her son Miles. "I can confirm postpartum life is 90% better when you don't rip to your butthole. Baby boy: 1 point. Luna: 0," Teigen wrote. And if you've been there, then you know all too well the level of pain she's referencing. But to be frank, what happens to your butt if you tear during childbirth? Because if you are pregnant for the first time, then you would really like all of the details on this and STAT.
For starters, it's not uncommon for "childbirth and the resulting stress on the body’s muscles and tissues" to lead to fissures, which are small tears in the skin around your anus that can itch and bleed, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Like a perineal tear or hemorrhoids, anal fissures can be treated, but they may be uncomfortable during your recovery.
Outside of the more common anal fissures, however, is the possibility of a perineal tear, which affects the area of skin between your vagina and anus, according to Baby Center. While rare, some tears are so severe, they actually extend into your anal sphincter.
"Third- and fourth-degree lacerations can be caused by labor and delivery tearing or by episiotomy," Isa Herrera, physical therapist and founder of PelvicPainRelief.com, tells Romper in an email interview. "They involve a third-degree tear in the vaginal tissue, perineal skin, and perineal muscles that extends into the anal sphincter, while a fourth-degree tear goes through the anal sphincter and the tissue underneath it."
Women who are at risk for a third- or -fourth-degree tear include those who are giving birth for the first time, as well as those who have previously suffered a third- or fourth-degree laceration, have an assisted delivery, and/or deliver a large baby, according to Baby Center.
According to Parents, third- and fourth-degree lacerations can take longer to heal than the more common first- or second-degree tear. While you can expect two to three weeks of initial pain, discomfort during sex or while having a bowel movement may last for several months.
As for the more severe tears, Dr. Rachel Gelman, a physical therapist and branch director at Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center, tells Romper in an email interview that the healing process can vary person to person. "But pelvic floor physical therapy is beneficial for anyone postpartum, especially if someone experienced that level of perineal tearing," she says. "Scar tissue that develops as a result of tearing during childbirth can lead to urinary or bowel dysfunction, pelvic pain and pain with sex. A physical therapist can help address the scar tissue and surrounding myofascial dysfunction that is contributing to the symptoms."
Katie Page, a certified nurse-midwife in Forest, Virginia, told Parents that cold compresses and herbal sitz baths can also provide immediate relief, while stool softeners and a diet of fiber-rich foods can help decrease discomfort during bowel movements. "Since severe tears into the vagina or rectum can cause pelvic floor dysfunction and prolapse, urinary problems, bowel movement difficulties, and discomfort during intercourse, it's important to share all of your symptoms with your doctor, no matter how embarrassing they may seem," Parents noted.
You'll also want to make sure you stay on the lookout for signs of infection from vaginal tears, including a fever or stitches that smell or become painful, Healthline said. Contact your healthcare provider if you have those symptoms or any of the following: "trouble controlling your bowels after a severe tear, intense pain while urinating, or increased frequency of urination, sanitary pads soaked with blood or you’re passing large blood clots, and/or severe pain in your lower abdomen, vagina, or perineum," according to the website.
And while there's no guaranteed way to prevent tearing during delivery, you can try to institute some preventative methods during your pregnancy that may decrease your chances. In addition to Kegel exercises and using a lubricant when it's time to push, you might also want to try regular perineal massage during the final six weeks of pregnancy to reduce your risk of tearing, according to The Bump.
Sure, it might sound like something you never pictured yourself doing, but then again here we are talking about tearing your butt, am I right?