Coping With A ‘Third Degree Tear’ And Post-Partum Recovery After Childbirth

With both of my children I coped with both labour and birth solely on gas and air, with my second I only had gas and air for about half an hour, since the hospital ‘wasn’t quite convinced’ that I was in labour. They must have been shitting me, surely. After going through the pains of labour and the joy of seeing our new tiny baby, I then had to be checked. Checked to see what the damage was. Turns out the damage was quite a bit. After a horrific internal inspection that made my toes curl and my eyes water, they confirmed I had torn, a third degree tear in-fact. I thought what was a third degree tear?

A third degree tear is all the way around to your bum (is my simplest description). But don’t worry, they assured me that my bum was still intact. That’s fantastic, that makes me feel much better about it all.

So, I needn’t have bothered going down the ‘natural’ drug-free (apart from the heavenly gas and air) route of giving birth, because I was about the be drugged up and numb from my waist down for a whole evening. If I had known this, I may have opted for this in the first place, although it may have caused more damage from the possible intervention of forceps etc.

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My favourite photo of our son after he had been born

The procedure of being stitched up after a third degree tear is very un-dignifying, legs in stirrups, revealing all to a room full of medical staff, but you won’t care, as you’ll be missing your baby and your partner who are waiting for you in the next room. All-in-all it took around an hour and you really don’t feel a thing.

You won’t feel a thing, no pain, no discomfort, until the early hours of the morning when you can start to move your toes.

I was desperate to be able to move, to get to my baby, I remember crying a lot because I couldn’t reach them and other people had to pass them to me so I was able to breast-feed. As soon as I was able to move, I realised I still couldn’t move. Every shuffle on the bed was agony and when they removed my catheter the next day, they expected me to get myself off of the bed and walk around. Shut the front door, I just cannot!

The first time I went through this, I felt extremely weak, like I had been through the wars and lost the use of everything below my hips. The second time, I was determined to be stronger. I needed to be stronger so once I was home I could be what both of my children needed, not just our new baby. I was almost ‘excited’ to have the catheter removed and attempt to get off the bed myself, sit down, stand up and have a shower, oh I needed that shower! This determination made the pain a lot less than I remembered.

Once we arrived home it was back to normal. Plus a baby. We had to carry on as normal after our second child was born, for the sake of our first child.

My side effects of a third degree tear were as follows:

  • Losing any sensation of needing the toilet
  • Not being able to hold a pee in (sorry to be frank)
  • Crying in pain once I needed a ‘number two’
  • Convincing myself my stitches had ripped every time I stood up or sat down
  • Taking a considerable time to stand up or sit down
  • Being scared to wash properly and asking Mr Firstooth to help

The above gets better as each day goes by. After two weeks any side effects and pain all of a sudden become extremely minor, which is perfect timing for when your partner would usually (and regrettably) have to return to work.

My advice for anyone that has suffered, or may suffer a third degree tear:

  • Once you’re discharged, make sure you ask the midwives to check your stitches every time they visit, even if they don’t offer
  • Get your partner to check your stitches also, it’s an unfortunate sight for them, but you have just screamed a baby out of your body, so they won’t mind
  • Keep moving. I know this sounds silly and perhaps I should be saying ‘rest as much as possible’ but the more you move about, the more the blood is circulating and you’ll find yourself more mobile, a lot sooner
  • When you stand up and sit down, I know the pain is sometimes excruciating, but don’t worry, you won’t have ripped any stitches (again, that’s what your partner is there to check)
  • You’re ‘number two’ won’t be as painful as you imagine, although it won’t be pleasant. Nothing will rip, just try to relax as much as possible
  • If you lose the sensation for when you need to pee, like I did, just take yourself to the toilet every couple of hours, to avoid any possible leakages
  • Let other people do any heavy lifting for a week (including the car seat)
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent any infections (the last thing you need is a UTI on top of this)
  • Keep it clean, it’s uncomfortable to do, so I would recommend asking for help (not always necessary) showering everyday, cleaning the area carefully with a sponge, gently wiping the area clean with wipes each time you change your maternity pad
  • Take all of the medication you’re prescribed regularly. You’ll be given things to ‘soften your stool’, ease the pain etc. they are all equally important
  • Don’t put pressure on yourself to achieve things such as housework and cooking meals, focus on your health and your baby/children. You will have plenty of offers for help, accept every one!
  • Attend your 6 week check-up (lots of people don’t)
  • Don’t attempt to have sex until you have at least been given the all-clear from your check-up. After the check-up, only attempt it when you feel ready, you’ve experienced a lot of trauma ‘down there’ so it’s understandable if you wait a while longer

All of this can apply to any type of tear and post-partum recovery. If you have any more tips I’d love to hear in the comments section.

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5 Comments

  1. August 12, 2015 / 8:53 pm

    I’m wincing just reading this! I was lucky only to have mild second degree tear the first time- like you I had to get my hubby to check my stitches – not sexy!!

    • August 13, 2015 / 5:20 am

      Not sexy, but had to be done! Did you have the fear of it tearing again too? It’s indescribable the feeling

      • August 14, 2015 / 9:28 am

        I didn’t really think about it to be honest. My 2nd labour didn’t go well, I ended up needing an epidural and syntocin but once I got to the pushing stage it was very calm and controlled, I could tell nothing was going to tear whereas with no.1 I pushed for 2 hrs. I had a friend who tore badly the first time and I know it’s really worried her with her subsequent deliveries but she was fine 2nd time around and fingers crossed for no.3!

  2. wonderfulandaverage
    August 12, 2015 / 9:34 pm

    Ouch, I’m wincing at the thought of this. I had a c-section, and I think the recovery was probably easier than from a bad tear. The repairing sounds awful, being away from your partner and brand new baby, and to go through labour with gas and air only to end up with an epidural anyway 🙁 There are some great tips here which I’m sure will be very helpful to anyone who goes through a similar experience.

    • August 13, 2015 / 5:18 am

      I’ve heard good and bad things about a c-section recovery (neither are pleasant). The giving birth thankfully wasn’t as painful as contractions! Thank you! 😀

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