Preparing For Birth – Has episiotomy been replaced by this practice?
In recent months I have noticed that during the end part of pushing and through delivery, care providers and/or nurses are doing very, very aggressive vaginal and perineal stretching. This is not the gentle perineal massage I have seen in the past. Even though I do not believe even that is necessary, it certainly was a far cry better than this.
To demonstrate, take your index and middle fingers from both hands and place them in your mouth on both sides with fingers facing in an outward pulling position inside your cheeks. Now pull outward, stretching your cheeks and lips while “massaging” the inside. Start gently, then get more aggressive. This is happening while soon a large malleable and smooth object will be pressing along those worked tissues.
How long do you think it would take for you to become swollen and bruised from this activity? Can you imagine that there might be small tears and abrasions would be present from this if you continued for up to 30 minutes?
Now imagine after all that activity you have a large object in your mouth inhabiting the entire area including the widely opened and stretched lips. Next instead of you gently pushing the object out under your own control and power, you are told to NOT push it out but to allow for it to be removed for you. So imagine you already hyper extended lips being pressed further open with quite some force until it move through your open mouth.
How do you think the over worked, sore, possibly swollen, and forcibly stretched tissues will react? Do you imagine tearing and damage?
Incredibly challenging and graphic descriptors to be sure.
Now imagine the alternative, there is no stretchy and pulling. The large malleable and smooth object enters the space slowly so your mouth has time to adjust and accommodate it. As the object approached your open lips, you slowly offer pushes to allow your lips to slowly stretch more than the norm. Though it may sting and pull it is bearable.
Imagine now what your tissues would be like after that? Sore? Some abrasion or some natural tearing? Swollen a bit? Even some bruising? Sure in reality you could be. Accommodating a human baby through your vagina is a different experience than the usual.
How did the two processes sound to you? To me I would much prefer the second one. Hands down. How about your husband or partner? Do you think this would be remotely decent to witness and then think ahead to actually having sexual activity with you again?
Though in my area, I rarely see an episiotomy done, I do see this very aggressive handling of the vagina and perineum routinely now. To add to this, I am seeing more tearing severe tearing as well. When I ask the women about how their bottom is healing and feeling, I hear about more soreness, swelling, and bruising in the women who experience this.
So what do you do about it? Saying no to episiotomy during appointments and in making your birth plan is not enough. Talk to your care provider ahead of time about the type of care you expect in late pushing and delivery. Talk to the nurse who is with you when you begin pushing. Tell your husband or partner to be on the look out for this aggressive technique so you can say NO. I also find that having warm compresses covering your perineum and vaginal opening can help abate it to a degree.
Here’s to a much healthier vagina, labia, and perineum post birth!