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    Find out what other moms-to-be are asking. Join in the discussion with Henci Goer, whose expertise is determining what the research tells us best promotes safe, healthy birth. If you would like to contact Henci outside of the Ask Henci forum, send an email to Goersitemail@aol.com.

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    Mar 12
    2007

    Vaginal birth after 4th degree tear

    Archived User

    Hi! I'm a new doula and I am working with a mom who had a routine episiotomy with her first birth which then extended into a fourth degree tear. Seven months after her birth she had correctional surgery because the tear did not heal properly. She is pregnant again now, due in May, and was told by the surgeon who repaired the injury that she should plan a C-Sec the next time around. After talking with her new OB, who is supportive of natural and low/no-intervention birth, she has decided to plan a vaginal birth. Her doctor encouraged her to hire a doula and plan to labor and deliver in ways that support the perineum to help prevent another tear.

    I have done extensive reading and attended a training course, but this will be my first birth. I'm aware of a few methods that will help prevent another tear--avoiding an episiotomy, water birth (not an option at this hospital), alternative birth positions, perineal support--but I could use some expert suggestions.

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    Henci Goer

    I have good news for your client. The key factor to avoiding another anal tear is to not have an episiotomy. To a lesser extent, giving birth spontaneously is also protective. I have two studies looking at anal sphincter injury rates at the next birth after having one at the first birth:

    Martin S, Labrecque M, Marcoux S, et al. The association between perineal trauma and spontaneous perineal tears. J Fam Pract 2001;50(4):333-7.

    Peleg D, Kennedy CM, Merrill D, et al. Risk of repetition of a severe perineal laceration. Obstet Gynecol 1999;93(6):1021-4.

    Martin et al. found that only 1% of 1,900 women having no episiotomy at the second birth had a repeat anal tear. This was the case even though 18% of the group had a vacuum extraction and 2% had a forceps delivery. Peleg et al. found that 2% of 290 women giving birth by their own efforts and not having an episiotomy had a repeat anal injury. No women having instrumental deliveries and no episiotomy had an anal tear, but there were only 17 women in this group. Among women having an episiotomy and a spontaneous birth (n = 376) , the repeat anal tear rate rose to 11%, and it soared to 21% in women having both an episiotomy and an instrumental vaginal delivery (n = 56). A care provider who supports normal birth would surely refrain from episiotomy, but it wouldn't hurt to ask.

    Other strategies to avoid a repeat anal injury based on the obstetric research would be:

    • Avoid an epidural. Epidurals increase the need for instrumental vaginal delivery and episiotomy.
    • Give birth in a position other than recumbent or semi-recumbent, in other words, upright, side-lying, or hands and knees. Women are more likely to have episiotomies and instrumental deliveries when they deliver on their backs.
    • A recent study found that neither warm compresses nor perineal massage at the time of the birth reduced tears in women attended by expert midwives who performed an episiotomy less than 1% of the time, but easing the head out in between contractions did. If she likes the sensation, though, warm compresses may help your client relax the perineum.

    Common sense says to keep the legs comfortably apart for the birth. If the perineum is already at full stretch because her legs are wide apart, the perineum will have nowhere to go. I can also tell you from experience that your client is likely to need extra reassurance at the time of the birth when she feels the burning sensation as the head comes through the vagina. Phrases such as "Let the baby come," "Ease the baby out," "Let go around the baby," or "Breathe the baby out," may prove helpful.

    Anyone else have any suggestions?

    -- Henci

    Archived User

    I had an epidural and episiotomy with my first child and ended up with a bad 4th degree tear.  I haven't had any more kids yet but I was talking with my new dr and they said definately schedule a C-section for the next delivery. I have done extensive research on the topic on the internet and I've read the same suggestion.

    There is a reason why they gave an episiotomy in the first place, to make the baby come out more quickly and easily (and usually it's at the Dr's convenience).  If you don't want to risk further damage then most definately schedule a C-section.   If I would have known that I would have gotten a tear I would have just skipped natural birth all together.  It's one thing to get fulfillment from delivering your child naturally, but the irreversable damage that it caused I still live with to this day and it's had a major effect on my physical, mental and emotional health. My daughter got stuck behind my pubic bone and the dr broke her collarbone just to get her out of me. Does that sound like a good way for her to have entered this world?  Vaginal birth is not worth it.

     

    Henci Goer

    I am sorry you have had this difficult experience. It may, however, have been avoidable, and you may wish to know this because cesarean surgeries have their own potential harms for you, the baby, and all future pregnancies. For one thing, studies show that episiotomy neither prevents nor relieves shoulder dystocia (when the baby's head is born, but the shoulders hang up behind the pubic bone). There is, if you think about it, no reason why it should, seeing as shoulder dystocia is not a soft tissue problem. You may also be able to avoid repeating the shoulder dystocia by giving birth on your hands and knees.

    Whatever you decide for your next birth, you say you have experienced mental and emotional distress as a result of your experience. You may want to know about Solace, a peer support website for women who have had a challenging birth experience.

    -- Henci

    Bruner JP, Drummond SB, Meenan AL, et al. All-fours maneuver for reducing shoulder dystocia during labor. J Reprod Med 1998;43(5):439-43.

    Dandolu V, Jain NJ, Hernandez E, et al. Shoulder dystocia at noninstrumental vaginal delivery. Am J Perinatol 2006;23(7):439-44.

    Gurewitsch ED, Donithan M, Stallings SP, et al. Episiotomy versus fetal manipulation in managing severe shoulder dystocia: a comparison of outcomes. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2004;191(3):911-6.

    Youssef R, Ramalingam U, Macleod M, et al. Cohort study of maternal and neonatal morbidity in relation to use of episiotomy at instrumental vaginal delivery. BJOG 2005;112(7):941-5.

    Archived User

    I had a spontanteous fourth degree tear with no episiotomy with my first.  Apparently, it is very rare.  Unfotunately, there is no way they know you're going to tear like that until the baby's head is crowning and at that point, it is too late to do anything about it.  I am pregnant with number two now and due with him on 3/17/09 (35 weeks this Tuesday.)  I sitll have not decided on whether I will have the c/s or try it again vaginally.  The Ob practice I go to will support whatever I chose to do, but I can tell that they would probably chose the c/s for me if they could.  I still have a little time to decide, so we'll see.  A lot of women I've talked to were happy with their choice for the second timea round regardless of what it was, so I think one has to do what feels right for oneself.  You won't know if you made the right decision until it's been made and carried out.

    Archived User

    I'd like to add that I didn't have vaccuum or forceps to assist with the delivery either.  In any case, I'm not upset with anyone about the outcome.  I healed up very well thankfully, which is why I am probably considering doing another vaginal delivery. 

    Henci Goer

    If I may put in an oar, I would suggest you go for the vaginal birth. The deep tear is not likely to repeat. Among four studies I have on the issue, the repeat rate of anal injury ranged from 1% to 5% in women who had neither episiotomy nor instrumental vaginal delivery at the second birth. In other words, your odds are between 95 and 99 to 1 that you won't have a repeat. On the other hand, cesarean surgery poses a long list of excess risks to you and your baby and to any future babies as well. You will also be less likely to tear deeply if you give birth lying on your side or at the very least that you birth with your legs comfortably apart and not so far open that your perineum (the tissue between the vagina and the anus) is already at full stretch. Also, once the head is crowning, let the contraction do the work and breathe, rather than push, and ease the head out in between contractions.

    -- Henci  

    Dandolu V, Gaughan JP, Chatwani AJ, et al. Risk of recurrence of anal sphincter lacerations. Obstet Gynecol 2005;105(4):831-5.

    Edwards H, Grotegut C, Harmanli OH, et al. Is severe perineal damage increased in women with prior anal sphincter injury? J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 2006;19(11):723-7.

    Martin S, Labrecque M, Marcoux S, et al. The association between perineal trauma and spontaneous perineal tears. J Fam Pract 2001;50(4):333-7.

    Peleg D, Kennedy CM, Merrill D, et al. Risk of repetition of a severe perineal laceration. Obstet Gynecol 1999;93(6):1021-4.

    Archived User

    My first birth, an 8-pound, 11-ounce baby girl resulted in a 4th degree tear (after an episotomy).  15-months later, I gave birth to an 8-pound, 12-ounce baby girl with no episotomy and a small tear that didn't even require a single stitch.  My OB didn't even suggest my not having a vaginal birth.

    I did give birth in a side-lying position - which was great and slowed down a fast birth!

    Have a wonderful birth!

    Archived User

    Well, I decided to go for another vaginal delivery with minimal interventions after hearing of countless women who tore badly with the first doing just fine the second time around.  There isn't enough evidence out there to support a c/s after fourth degree tearing, IMO, but I will admit that it's nice to have that option, especaill if one has complications with the tear.  In any case, I hired a doula to help me through the process, about which I am really excited!  I'm due on 3/17/09, so wish me luck!  :-)

    Henci Goer

    I know you will find the doula a boon. I certainly wish you luck. Please let us know how things go.

    -- Henci

    Archived User

    Oh my goodness!  What a relief to see that it is not such a high risk to have a vaginal delivery after a 4th degree tear!  My son is 15 months and it will be a while before we consider another one, but my ob is all but insisting that I have a section with any other children.  In fact, not 2 minutes after delivery the delivering doc told me that she would highly reccomend a section.  My labor was short for a first time, 6 hours start to finish.  I started out in the tub and I should have stayed there!  I ended up on my back.  I couldn't breathe and couldn't stay under control.  My son ended up presenting with his face up(posterior) and his head tilted to the side, as well as having an extremely tight nucchal cord...yes, I'm a nurse.  His HR dropped consistently to the 40's despite scalp stimulation.  The vaccuum was attempted approximately 5 times, all with pop offs.  Then the md just did what she had to do to get him out.  Adding to the complications, I hemmorhaged after ending up with an H&H of 5 and 17.  Despite all this I would rather do it all again than have a section.  Part of my dr's rationale for a section is that second babies are usually bigger.  My son was 7lbs5oz.  The position that he presented in with all the added complications was one in thousands.  Thank you for affirming that it is still possible for me to have a vaginal delivery!

    Henci Goer

    You're welcome! I wouldn't be overly concerned about having a bigger baby next time. Your problems didn't have to do with the baby's size. Quite the contrary, the fact that you got a posterior, asynclitic baby out vaginally says you have room to spare.

    Some women who have difficult births such as yours end up experiencing long-term emotional distress. If this is the case for you, I recommend Solace, a website for women who have had challenging childbirths. 

    -- Henci  

    Archived User

    I had a four degree tear at my second baby last June.  Baby too big she 8bl 14 onces.  Her shoulder stuck so the Dr. decide to take a scisor and do a quick snip so she can pull the baby out.  So I don't know if the push cause a big tear or because she snip me.  Anyway they give me stoll softener to use couple months.  I have no problem going to the bathroom, but I have a different problem after the healing.  Every cyle of my period I got sore around my rectum.  Or everytime I use the pad, tampon pad.  Its sour untill I'm done with the period and not using any pad.  I feel at the sour area its only at the rectum not at the virgina area.  And as I remember the normal rectom is closing tight before I got the snip and repair.  But after that repair the side next to my virgina which that where the tear running along the rectum its not deep tight,  it bumpy.  And its kinda swollen especially when its become sore when I use the pad for my periods. Its not level with the rest of my rectum circle.   ITS THAT MEAN THEY NOT DO A GOOD JOB AT SEWING ME UP?

    Henci Goer

    Not necessarily, but something is certainly not right. Have your ob/gyn or midwife evaluate the problem. Maybe there is something that can be done about it.

    -- Henci

    Archived User

    I had 2 4th degree episiotomies (9# born 1987 and 11# born 1989). Now pregnant 20 years later I'm worried that the scar tissue will not stretch.  My doc is pro natural- baby should be smaller due to GERD diet... What is your experience with scar tissue stretching and/or the repair/healing of scar tissue if another episiotomy is needed? Terri

    Henci Goer

    I can't speak to experience because I am not a clinician. I just read, evaluate, and put together the medical research. However, the second post in this thread--my response to the woman who started the thread--gives you the research data on how likely you are to experience another deep tear with this baby. The same post also has some suggestions for ways to minimize your chances of another deep tear.

    -- Henci

    Archived User

    I appreciate your informed and reassuring comments in the forum. I realize now that I had most of the risk factors for tearing in my first delivery, but due to being on blood thinners during the pregnancy, I'm not sure what I would be able to do differently the second time around. Do you have any ideas?

    When a specialist discovered, early in the pregnancy, that I had a clotting disorder (protein C), I began taking heparin. The goal was to get me off of blood thinners right at 24 hours before labor and birth, so I scheduled an induction. Five days before the induction date, I developed Heparin-induced Thrombocytopenia and my platelet count dropped rapidly. I was induced the next morning. Knowing the pitocin would rush things, I wanted the epidural. She got stuck on the way out. He tried an episiotomy, and she arrived beautifully, but they had a lot of repair work to do on me. I apparently healed very well compared to many 4th degrees, but I'd rather not repeat the experience!

    Next time, I could skip the epidural and birth on my side, but getting off of the blood thinners in time could be a real problem if I don't induce. Just thought I'd ask you and see what options might be out there.

    Henci Goer

    If I understand your question (and please correct me if I am wrong), you are wanting information on optimal induction of labor so that you get off blood thinners before labor. Here are some recommendations:

    • Hire a doula: If your goal is to avoid an epidural, she can help you do that. A doula can also provide encouragement and support through what is likely to be a rougher ride than with your own natural contractions.  
    • Do not induce before the beginning of the 40th week, i.e. 39 completed weeks or a week before your due date: This minimizes the chances of the baby having serious respiratory problems.
    • Do not use misoprostol (trade name: Cytotec, AKA "miso") if the cervix is not ripe: Go with one of the prostaglandin E2 formulations (trade names: Cervidil and Prepidil). These work equally well and while they are not risk free, they don't have quite the dark history of Cytotec. (See p. 8 of the FDA package insert.)
    • Discuss oxytocin dose with your doctor if you think it won't be more trouble than it is worth--some obs may take offense: An oxytocin regimen that mimics levels released naturally and that takes into account how long it takes for any given dose to reach full effect will produce equally good results with less likelihood of problems. (See p. 6 of this oxytocin package insert.) 
    • Do not rupture membranes until in active, progressive labor--if at all: If the induction doesn't take, you can stop it, go home, and try again another day.
    • Arrange that once you are in active, progressive labor, they will try turning off the oxytocin drip: In many cases, once the pump is primed, so to speak, you will go on making progress with your natural contractions. If this doesn't happen, it can just be restarted. They (and you) will know within a fairly short time whether this is the case.
    • Stay mobile and upright during labor: A good doula can help you find creative ways to do this hampered by the need for the IV pole and fetal monitoring.

    That's about it off the top of my head.

    -- Henci

    Henci Goer

    If I understand your question (and please correct me if I am wrong), you are wanting information on optimal induction of labor so that you get off blood thinners before labor. Here are some recommendations:

    • Hire a doula: If your goal is to avoid an epidural, she can help you do that. A doula can also provide encouragement and support through what is likely to be a rougher ride than with your own natural contractions.  
    • Do not induce before the beginning of the 40th week, i.e. 39 completed weeks or a week before your due date: This minimizes the chances of the baby having serious respiratory problems.
    • Do not use misoprostol (trade name: Cytotec, AKA "miso") if the cervix is not ripe: Go with one of the prostaglandin E2 formulations (trade names: Cervidil and Prepidil). These work equally well and while they are not risk free, they don't have quite the dark history of Cytotec. (See p. 8 of the FDA package insert.)
    • Discuss oxytocin dose with your doctor if you think it won't be more trouble than it is worth--some obs may take offense: An oxytocin regimen that mimics levels released naturally and that takes into account how long it takes for any given dose to reach full effect will produce equally good results with less likelihood of problems. (See p. 6 of this oxytocin package insert.) 
    • Do not rupture membranes until in active, progressive labor--if at all: If the induction doesn't take, you can stop it, go home, and try again another day.
    • Arrange that once you are in active, progressive labor, they will try turning off the oxytocin drip: In many cases, once the pump is primed, so to speak, you will go on making progress with your natural contractions. If this doesn't happen, it can just be restarted. They (and you) will know within a fairly short time whether this is the case.
    • Stay mobile and upright during labor: A good doula can help you find creative ways to do this hampered by the need for the IV pole and fetal monitoring.

    That's about it off the top of my head.

    -- Henci

    Henci Goer

    If I understand your question (and please correct me if I am wrong), you are wanting information on optimal induction of labor so that you get off blood thinners before labor. Here are some recommendations:

    • Hire a doula: If your goal is to avoid an epidural, she can help you do that. A doula can also provide encouragement and support through what is likely to be a rougher ride than with your own natural contractions.  
    • Do not induce before the beginning of the 40th week, i.e. 39 completed weeks or a week before your due date: This minimizes the chances of the baby having serious respiratory problems.
    • Do not use misoprostol (trade name: Cytotec, AKA "miso") if the cervix is not ripe: Go with one of the prostaglandin E2 formulations (trade names: Cervidil and Prepidil). These work equally well and while they are not risk free, they don't have quite the dark history of Cytotec. (See p. 8 of the FDA package insert.)
    • Discuss oxytocin dose with your doctor if you think it won't be more trouble than it is worth--some obs may take offense: An oxytocin regimen that mimics levels released naturally and that takes into account how long it takes for any given dose to reach full effect will produce equally good results with less likelihood of problems. (See p. 6 of this oxytocin package insert.) 
    • Do not rupture membranes until in active, progressive labor--if at all: If the induction doesn't take, you can stop it, go home, and try again another day.
    • Arrange that once you are in active, progressive labor, they will try turning off the oxytocin drip: In many cases, once the pump is primed, so to speak, you will go on making progress with your natural contractions. If this doesn't happen, it can just be restarted. They (and you) will know within a fairly short time whether this is the case.
    • Stay mobile and upright during labor: A good doula can help you find creative ways to do this hampered by the need for the IV pole and fetal monitoring.

    That's about it off the top of my head.

    -- Henci

    Archived User

     My first child was 8lb 8oz, I had 4th degree tear after an episiotomy. I am currently 5 months pregnant with my second child due Sept 6, 2010, My first child is turning 10 in July and I have had no problems. My OB suggested a c-section to prevent any repeat tear but will allow me to make the decision for vaginal or section birth. I am on the line as to what I want to do, I definately do not want longterm complications after another bad tear, but also the trauma of a section scares me too. I have read alot of the posts. I just wondered what the outcome has been for some of you that have went ahead with the vaginal birth after tearing. How did it go?

    Henci Goer

    I hope you get some responses from individuals, although the likelihood of a repeat tear depends on their care provider's practices during pushing and the birth. If you have not read it already, I have a post in this same thread dated 22 Mar 2007 that tells you how to minimize the chances of a repeat severe tear, and is, by the way, sound practice for any birth. I recommend that you discuss the recommendations with your OB. If your OB is open to them, you are on your way to an optimally managed birth. If not--and I find it concerning that your OB has recommended elective cesarean surgery seemingly without discussing its potential harms--then my advice is to find someone who is.

    -- Henci 

    Archived User

    I had a fourth degree tear during the delivery of my first baby. The doctor and nurses described it as precipitous birth. I did not have an episiotomy, or assited delivery. I presented to the floor between 6 cm and 7 cm dialated - my delivery then stalled. The nurses encouraged me to push when I became suitably dilated, however I found it uncomfortable and did not feel ready. At their insistance I pushed several times, they then cautioned me not to push. The doctor arrived and pushing became involuntary, the head crowned. The doctor attempted to massge the area and ease the baby, but I could not control the pushing and the baby was delivered. The doctor initially thought I was a second degree tear and began to suture the area. Once he noted the tear to be worse I was sent to surgery for a full repair.

    I was not informed of any problems with presentation - as an aside she was very low in the weeks leading to delivery and the doctors were unable to palpate her head. An u/s ruled out a breech birth but the technician commented on how low the baby was. When born baby had a severely coned head, in fact the nurses did not measure her length.

    I am unsure if I will have another child or not. My thought is to once again try a natural birth. The fears associated with a bad tear were difficult to overcome and I have some ongoing symptoms; tenderness at the site (the sutures to the skin gave way leaving an open area between vagina and anus),during sex and bathroom cleaning. The first bowel movement was extremely uncomfortable and trying despite stool softeners - unfortunately pain management in the form of tylenol may have been at fault. After my delivery I was able to fully care for my daughter without limitations, as would be imposed with a c section.

    I am an avid horseback rider and the nurses suggested that this may have strengthened my perineum causing it to tear rather than stretch. What are your thoughts on this?

    Henci Goer

    First of all, I wouldn't pay a lot of attention to the nurses' thoughts on the reason for your deep tear. It may simply have been luck of the draw or, in fact, you have less stretchy skin for whatever reason. It sounds like your problem went beyond an anal sphincter tear, though. It sounds like you developed a fistula, an opening between the vagina and the rectum, as a further complication. If this is the case, you may wish to consult with a specialist on how well it has healed (or consider repair surgery if it has not).

    As for thinking about another baby, I am not a midwife or doctor, and you may want to seek advice from someone with a high intact perineum rate--the doulas in your community should be able to suggest some likely people or there may be a birth resource center or birth network group--but here are some suggestions of mine:

    • Engage in perineal massage during pregnancy to gently stretch that area and to gain sensory feedback so you can feel how to relax those muscles consciously because they may tend to tighten in response to the pain of stretching during crowning. BTW, perineal massage during pushing has not been shown to prevent tears.
    • Avoid an epidural because it limits choice of position and your ability to feel what you are doing when you push. This is already your plan.
    • Push and give birth in a position other than the standard lying on your back with knees drawn back and wide apart, A.K.A. the "stranded beetle." This puts your perineum at full stretch already so it has nowhere to go. Giving birth lying on your side or on all fours keeps pressure off the perineum.
    • A "hands off the perineum" policy as the baby emerges may be better than manipulating the baby or perineum, although with a birth attendant who has a high rate of intact perineums, I would trust her or his judgment.
    • Pushing the head out in between contractions and refraining from pushing during contractions--think in terms of breathing the baby out rather than pushing--will help reduce tearing.

    -- Henci

    Archived User

    I did request a referral and my GP complied sending me to the nearest city. The specialist had thought that I healed remarkably well. I never had a fistula between anus and vagina - the repair muscled stayed intact. The sutured skin between the anus and vagina tore 10 days post op. I find it uncomfortable to wipe after using the toilet and tender during sex. However the specialist strongly urged me to refrain from seeking a repair of the skin as he stated the area was difficult to keep clean and infection could result. He also advised me, for the sake of this discussion, to once again have a natural birth. His suggestion was that should another tear ensue during delivery; another attempt then would be made at repair. He strongly advised that labour by planned c section was 100% chance of surgery where delivery naturally is not. Although he did mention his wife had fourth degree tear during first delivery and then went on to have another fourth degree and a third degree tear.

    Archived User

    Henci,

    I experienced a fourth degree tear during the birth of my first daughter-- very long induced hospital birth with nurse-midwife and doula.   I had a surgical repair and healed well physically.  However, I developed chronic PTSD, which went untreated for a little over a year.  It was hell.  I eventually found support from communities like Solace and began seeing a psychologist every week.   After a year of therapy, I was feeling mostly back to normal and finally enjoying motherhood.   I was no longer bombarded every 20 minutes with intrusive thoughts and flashbacks. I learned to manage my PTSD triggers in daily life usually by avoiding or removing myself from stimulus.   I quit therapy about six months ago and continue to do pretty well.   

    My daughter is now almost three and my husband and I are considering trying for a second child.  After reading through your posts, I'm gaining confidence that I could birth vaginally without a repeat of my last experience-- and thank you very much for that.  However, I still have a lot of PTSD triggers associated with birth.   Do you have any information on strategies women use to make vaginal birth after trauma physcologically tolerable?  We're concerned that I'm going to be plagued by panic attacks and flashbacks. 

    I'm just exploring options at this point.  I will find a new doctor, new midwife, new hospital, new therapist, new doula, new childbirth instructor, etc. if we do decide to move foward.  I can't even consider moving forward without some sort of preliminary plan, so your research might be helpful in that regard.

    Thanks,  Mary

    Henci Goer
    Posted By on 18 Apr 2010 03:55 AM

    I did request a referral and my GP complied sending me to the nearest city. The specialist had thought that I healed remarkably well. I never had a fistula between anus and vagina - the repair muscled stayed intact. The sutured skin between the anus and vagina tore 10 days post op. I find it uncomfortable to wipe after using the toilet and tender during sex. However the specialist strongly urged me to refrain from seeking a repair of the skin as he stated the area was difficult to keep clean and infection could result. He also advised me, for the sake of this discussion, to once again have a natural birth. His suggestion was that should another tear ensue during delivery; another attempt then would be made at repair. He strongly advised that labour by planned c section was 100% chance of surgery where delivery naturally is not. Although he did mention his wife had fourth degree tear during first delivery and then went on to have another fourth degree and a third degree tear.

    I like how the specialist you consulted thinks. So your best bet, then, is to try the strategies I recommended for minimizing the chance of deep tears with the understanding that they aren't absolutely fail safe.

    -- Henci

    Henci Goer
    Posted By on 20 Apr 2010 02:05 AM

    Henci,

    I experienced a fourth degree tear during the birth of my first daughter-- very long induced hospital birth with nurse-midwife and doula.   I had a surgical repair and healed well physically.  However, I developed chronic PTSD, which went untreated for a little over a year.  It was hell.  I eventually found support from communities like Solace and began seeing a psychologist every week.   After a year of therapy, I was feeling mostly back to normal and finally enjoying motherhood.   I was no longer bombarded every 20 minutes with intrusive thoughts and flashbacks. I learned to manage my PTSD triggers in daily life usually by avoiding or removing myself from stimulus.   I quit therapy about six months ago and continue to do pretty well.   

    My daughter is now almost three and my husband and I are considering trying for a second child.  After reading through your posts, I'm gaining confidence that I could birth vaginally without a repeat of my last experience-- and thank you very much for that.  However, I still have a lot of PTSD triggers associated with birth.   Do you have any information on strategies women use to make vaginal birth after trauma physcologically tolerable?  We're concerned that I'm going to be plagued by panic attacks and flashbacks. 

    I'm just exploring options at this point.  I will find a new doctor, new midwife, new hospital, new therapist, new doula, new childbirth instructor, etc. if we do decide to move foward.  I can't even consider moving forward without some sort of preliminary plan, so your research might be helpful in that regard.

    Thanks,  Mary


    You have anticipated me. I was going to recommend Solace, a peer support group for women who have had challenging childbirths, but you have already found them. Sharon Storton, the woman who founded Solace, a marriage and family counselor who specializes in perinatal mood disorders, is a friend of mine. I am going to e-mail her a copy of your post and see what she recommends. Stay tuned.

    -- Henci 

    Henci Goer

    Mary --

    I'm pasting in Sharon Storton's response to your post below.

    -- Henci

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Mary:

    I am really glad that you found Henci's forum, and that you have been so active in your work to rein in this trauma.  Trauma often has 3 categories of symptoms: intrusions / avoiding / hypervigilence.  The intrusive symptoms include the flashbacks you describe.  Yours have been particularly severe.  Strong symptoms occurring every 20 minutes will level anyone!.  Nightmares come under this heading, as well.  The other 2 categories are avoiding whatever reminds you of the trauma, which may have been what initiated the idea for a complete change of personnel.  Good sense quickly joined that idea, and you are on to different care providers.  The last category is hypervigilence, which is often seen as "worry" or "anxiety."  It's that "cat-like" readiness for any other problems that may be nearby.  All that together can really send an already stressful situation - learning to care for a newborn as you heal from birth yourself - over the top!
     
    EMDR has been found to be very useful for many "stuck" experiences:  trauma, grief (and that's such a big part of a difficult birth), anger that no longer serves you, etc.  I have personally experienced the use of EMDR for a trauma, and found it to be very useful when combined with a chance to process the situation.  I use it frequently in my practice as a therapist.  Candidly, it's like any other technique - it's not for everyone, all the time.  About 80% or so of women get good to excellent results, and about 20% say "it was okay, but..." or it did nothing.  For folks who either don't want EMDR or who are in the 20% for whom it's not great, I use hypnosis to "talk" to the symptoms.  What are the flashbacks trying to tell you that you have not yet seen?  If you pay attention, can you ask them to whisper an idea rather than shout a concern?  Combining that conversation with relaxation cues works well a good deal of the time.  Acupuncture is often extremely helpful toward abating trauma symptoms, and often helps with the sleep-related issues such as nightmares or insomnia.  I've seen some women who prefer medication, and use that for about 6 months in order to reset their systems from always being "on."  I've seen very good results when women work with a "Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine" (called a Naturopath, or a DN).  A naturopathic physician will often use amino acids, herbs, or homeopathic treatments to bring your system back down to a resting state.  The key is that you need to be able to enter a "parasympathetic" state once again.  It's the more calm, connective, gentle way of being in the world.  Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, a la Jon Kabat-Zinn, are often really useful toward claiming and maintaining a parasympathetic state.  There are many recordings and books on that topic.

    Whew!  I hope this gives you many new options to consider without overwhelming you.  I think that reaching out, being so candid, and being proactive are excellent signs that you are tired of this situation making your choices *for* you.  While you may appreciate your body's resolute drive to keep you and your family safe, the threat is over now and you can welcome peace back into your birthing process.  

    I am pleased to answer any further questions or thoughts that you may want to send my way via Henci.  I'm grateful that Solace was a safe place for you to find support.  

    Take very good care,
    Sharon Storton

    Archived User

    Henci!

    Your responses to all the questions you have been asked have been amazing. Thank you so much for you honesty and you sincerity.

    I suffered a heamatoma after the birth of my third child however, it did not become painful until two weeks post-partum at which point I was rushed in for emergency surgery.

    The heamatoma was so large that it had punctured a hole through to my rectum (fistula?) which was then stitched. I am assuming that the complications I experienced would be similar to those of a fourth degree tear, am I right?

    I am now 18 months down the line and I have no further symptoms. At my check-up he was surprised at how well I had healed and said that the hole had completely closed and that the scar tissue was minimal considering what I had experienced (I didn't tell him it was all thanks to the arnica!!).

    The surgeon then went on to tell me a c-section would be necessary if I were to choose to have any more children.

    Having read through all of your posts, I feel confident that he was simply being dramatic and am happily considering child number four!

    I would also like to add that I did have an episiotomy at my first labour and the site of the heamotoma was exactly where my scar tissue was...I am not sure if the two are directly linked but I suspect that the problem had been there all that time and was simply aggravated by a very quick labour (less than 20 minutes).

    The pain I felt during the early contractions was huge and I am someone who usually labours on my hands and knees I found this impossible this time around as the pain was intense and nothing like my 'normal' labour pain. I knew something was not quite right but I felt fine for the next two weeks...until I stopped taking the arnica as it ran out and then it erupted!

    I had my last two births at home and would love to do so again...so you never know!

    I think it would be wise to be examined by an ob/gyn prior to conception though, just to ensure that all is well.

    Thank you for restoring my confidence.

    Best Regards

    Natasha

    Henci Goer

    Glad to have been of help! When you get pregnant again, make sure you discuss your history with your midwife. She may have some suggestions for how to minimize the chance of a repeat. One thing that comes to my mind is planning to give birth side-lying or on all fours so that you minimize pressure on the injured area.

    -- Henci

    Archived User

    Hi Henci,
     
    I've been reading through your website regarding women who have had successful subsequent births after 4th degree tears.  Unfortunately, I haven't been receiving the same type of support and data from specialists I've been seeing. 
     
    My first child was born in June of 2008.  We weren't sure of his date of conception, so we let him go 10 days past 'due' before going to the hospital to be induced.  I was showing no signs of readiness for delivery- no real effacing, no dialation.  After receiving cervidil twice during my first 12 hours in the hospital, they started me on pitocin.  I labored down for another 5-6 hours and then pushed for 3 hours.  In the process of being induced, it was noted that my son was acyclitic.  I could feel him jabbing into the right side of my pelvis.  He was likely trying to turn, but didn't have a whole lot of space (or he was being rushed, which is my perception).  I finally delivered him OP after the midwife almost broke her finger trying to turn him.  With my final push and with vaccuum- assistance, my OB performed an episiotomy.  My doula claims that I delivered my son via 'vaginal c-section' since I was cut so deeply and not in a midline fashion.
     
    I'm now 32 weeks pregnant with my daughter.  I have been to a specialist who says that I have about a 30-40% chance of permanent damange to my rectum that aren't directly visible from tearing during pregancy since that's just the outter muscle and tissue.  He explained that tiny fissures can occur on the internal scphinter muscle that aren't evidenced by outter tearing- and often they don't become problematic until later in life when muscle integrity starts to become comprised with age.  After reviewing an ultrasound that was performed on my rectum in 2008, the specialist was incredibly surprised to see how well i've compensated when he performed an exam on my muscle strength at my appointment this week.  In 2008, I used to pass gass inadvertantly as well as have some incontenance.  Currently, most of this seemed to disappear with time and after performing regular kegels. 
     
    I'm worried about the following concerns this specialist brought to my attention:


    1.  That I might risking long-term permanent damange to my rectum resulting in permanent incontinence starting in my later years for the exchange of a short-term gain- a vaginal delivery for my daughter (which could still end up in a C Section or not). 


    2. That women who have permanent incontinence in their later years are 50-70% more likely to have depression.  I battled with serious post partum depression after the birth of my son and depression does run in my family.  I can't imagine spending the later years of my life with extreme intervention that comes with the disfunction of the rectal muscles.


    3. I'm also worried about the exchange I am making regarding my body recovering from a C-section.  I want to know the effects it will have on nursing, etc.  I'm just not sure how to exchange the short-term for the long-term. I've heard that C sections don't cut through muscle anymore, but I'm going to have to do more research here.  Is there a way to have a 'natural' c-section or at least advocate the best c-section for me and my baby?
     
    I've been doing research, but i keep coming back to the same statement:  "Am I truly reducing the risk to me and my baby of permanent damange by having an elective c section, or am I just trading one risk for the other?"
     
    I don't plan to have any further children after my daughter, which has been brought up as a factor that would push the specialist to tell me otherwise, since subsequent C-sections are more dangerous.
     
    Any advice, direction, would be most helpful.
     
    Jenn

    Phoenix, AZ

     

    Henci Goer
    I've interwoven my responses in red. -- Henci
    Posted By Jenn Raven on 18 Jun 2010 04:26 PM

    Hi Henci,
     
    I've been reading through your website regarding women who have had successful subsequent births after 4th degree tears.  Unfortunately, I haven't been receiving the same type of support and data from specialists I've been seeing. 
     
    My first child was born in June of 2008.  We weren't sure of his date of conception, so we let him go 10 days past 'due' before going to the hospital to be induced.  I was showing no signs of readiness for delivery- no real effacing, no dialation.  After receiving cervidil twice during my first 12 hours in the hospital, they started me on pitocin.  I labored down for another 5-6 hours and then pushed for 3 hours.  In the process of being induced, it was noted that my son was acyclitic.  I could feel him jabbing into the right side of my pelvis.  He was likely trying to turn, but didn't have a whole lot of space (or he was being rushed, which is my perception).  I finally delivered him OP after the midwife almost broke her finger trying to turn him.  With my final push and with vaccuum- assistance, my OB performed an episiotomy.  My doula claims that I delivered my son via 'vaginal c-section' since I was cut so deeply and not in a midline fashion.
     
    I'm now 32 weeks pregnant with my daughter.  I have been to a specialist who says that I have about a 30-40% chance of permanent damange to my rectum that aren't directly visible from tearing during pregancy since that's just the outter muscle and tissue.  He explained that tiny fissures can occur on the internal scphinter muscle that aren't evidenced by outter tearing- and often they don't become problematic until later in life when muscle integrity starts to become comprised with age. 

    The finding of invisible fissures in the rectal muscle is associated only weakly with anal sphincter incontinence, that is, many women who have them do not develop overt problems and some women who do not, do.  

    After reviewing an ultrasound that was performed on my rectum in 2008, the specialist was incredibly surprised to see how well i've compensated when he performed an exam on my muscle strength at my appointment this week.  In 2008, I used to pass gass inadvertantly as well as have some incontenance.  Currently, most of this seemed to disappear with time and after performing regular kegels. 

    Good for you! You have discovered what the research confirms: pelvic floor exercises can improve or relieve symptoms. 
     
    I'm worried about the following concerns this specialist brought to my attention:


    1.  That I might risking long-term permanent damange to my rectum resulting in permanent incontinence starting in my later years for the exchange of a short-term gain- a vaginal delivery for my daughter (which could still end up in a C Section or not). 

     Cesarean surgery does not confer any protection against anal incontinence. And having had a vaginal birth, you are unlikely to have a cesarean for a subsequent baby. 


    2. That women who have permanent incontinence in their later years are 50-70% more likely to have depression.  I battled with serious post partum depression after the birth of my son and depression does run in my family.  I can't imagine spending the later years of my life with extreme intervention that comes with the disfunction of the rectal muscles.

    I'm sure that is true, but if surgical delivery does not prevent incontinence, then it logically follows that it cannot prevent incontinence-related depression. I should add as well that few cases of what is termed "anal incontinence" are cases of fecal incontinence. Almost all are of gas incontinence only. 


    3. I'm also worried about the exchange I am making regarding my body recovering from a C-section.  I want to know the effects it will have on nursing, etc.  I'm just not sure how to exchange the short-term for the long-term. I've heard that C sections don't cut through muscle anymore, but I'm going to have to do more research here.  Is there a way to have a 'natural' c-section or at least advocate the best c-section for me and my baby?

    You are right to be worried about the difficulties of recovering from surgery while caring for a newborn, but that is not the only thing you should be worried about. CIMS has a fact sheet and model informed consent form form on the hazards of cesarean surgery. Notice that in addition to the immediate and short-term potential complications, cesarean surgery can also lead to debilitating chronic problems resulting from adhesions (internal scar tissue) and cesarean-related endometriosis.


    I've been doing research, but i keep coming back to the same statement:  "Am I truly reducing the risk to me and my baby of permanent damange by having an elective c section, or am I just trading one risk for the other?"

    "No" to the first part of your question, "yes" to the second part. Moreover, the risk of permanent damage during vaginal birth can be minimized by optimal care, but the risks of cesareans are intrinsic to having surgery.
     
    I don't plan to have any further children after my daughter, which has been brought up as a factor that would push the specialist to tell me otherwise, since subsequent C-sections are more dangerous.

    Planning not to have more children and not having more children are two different things. Substantial percentages of women have more than two children because they change their minds or have an unplanned pregnancy and decide to carry it through. Once you have a scarred uterus, you and your baby are at risk in future pregnancies and deliveries regardless of whether you plan elective repeat cesarean or vaginal birth. 
     
    Any advice, direction, would be most helpful.

    I hope I've helped. My last piece of advice is that your care providers appear to be pushing you in one direction: elective cesarean surgery, and, however well intentioned, they are doing so on grounds that are not supported by the research evidence. If you decide to go another route (pardon the pun), I would switch to care providers who are on the same road you are. The Birth Survey may help you find such a person in Phoenix. Once you have located someone, the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services has a pamphlet, "Having a Baby? Ten Questions to Ask"  that will help you confirm it. 
     
    Jenn

    Phoenix, AZ

     

     

    Archived User

    So, I have had 2 4th degree tears and I know the statistics on that.  I know it is very unusual and that I have been quite unlucky.  Both were natural deliveries at a birth center with a very competent midwife.  I did not suffer any sort of emotional trauma from either birth and healed quickly after the 1st (felt perfect after 2 weeks) and normally after the 2nd (was still a little sore at 6 weeks but recovering nicely).  Now I am expecting a 3rd and am wondering...what are the chances of a double repeat 4th degree tear?  What is the long term effect of double repeat tearing? What do you recommend for a woman in my situation?

    Henci Goer

    Apologies, but I don't know how helpful I can be. If you have read this thread, you will know that the research does document repeat anal sphincter muscle tears even in women not exposed to factors that would increase their risk (episiotomy, instrumental vaginal delivery), but I don't have anything that gives odds of a 3rd repeat, nor do I know how odds of anal incontinence relate to repeated anal sphincter injury beyond the fact that while anal sphincter injury per se increases the odds, most women with anal sphincter injury remain continent and most incontinence is of gas only.

    I guess the first question I would have is there anything further that can be done to minimize the chance of yet another anal tear? For example, women are less likely to tear if they give birth side lying and if the head is birthed in beween contractions. I don't see that it makes any sense to plan cesarean surgery, as is so often recommended, because that trades the risk of anal incontinence for a long list of potential harms not only to you but to your baby and any future children, and some of them are life-threatening. You might also want to investigate treatment options for incontinence should worst come to worst. Are there physical therapy/exercise options and how effective are they? I know there are surgical repair procedures; how effective are they? You may even wish to consider a prophylactic mediolateral episiotomy (the cut goes off at an angle instead of straight down). I'm just brainstorming here, but I hope it has given you food for thought. In addition to your own investigations, you will also probably want to talk matters over with your midwife and with her backup ob.

    -- Henci

    Archived User

    Thanks for all the comments on this discussion, I've found it very helpful as I'm expecting my second child and trying to determine whether to take my doctor up on the offer to do an elective c-section. With my first child I labored for about 10 hours but only pushed for 15 before he was delivered. My doctor did give me an episiotomy but unfortunately I continued to tear and ended up with a Fourth Degree Buttonhole tear. I would prefer to deliver vaginally with my second, but I'm concerned about suffering again as I did after my first. It was months before I could sit normally and have a bowel movement without a lot of painful. Two 1/2 years later I still have occasional pain and difficulty with bowel movements. My doctors have also said there are probably some things we can do to help prevent a tear so badly, but they've also said it's very likely I'll tear to the same degree.

    I'm going to ask my doctors about your recommendations, but just curious if you would make any additional or different recommendations given my tear was a 4th-degree buttonhole.

    Henci Goer
    I’m sorry for all you’ve been through. It sounds extremely unpleasant. I am not aware of any research specifically related to a buttonhole tear as opposed to 4th degree tear per se. If you have read the thread, you will know all that I know about what the research has to say on how to minimize the chance of a repeat tear. You will also know that, in fact, when those measures are taken, repeat tears are not common, although they do occur. You have probably also followed the link to see the potential harms of cesarean surgery, so you know that major surgery is no walk in the park either.
    The best advice I can give you is to have a heart-to-heart with your doctors. For example, it isn’t clear from what you wrote whether they think anal tears in general are likely to repeat, which the research doesn’t support, or whether they are specifically concerned about buttonhole tears. If the latter, you may wish to see the data on which they base their opinion. And if they haven’t specified this already, you will probably want to discuss what they have in mind to minimize the chances of a repeat. (If you decide to go ahead with a planned vaginal birth, make sure to add any strategies from this thread they don’t already have.) You may also wish to discuss what can be done should you have a repeat that causes the kind of problems you experienced last time. Once you have all the facts, you will be in a position to decide whether planned vaginal birth or cesarean surgery seems best.

     

    -- Henci

    Archived User

    Hi Jenn,

    Thanks for sharing!  I had my first child in 2008 as well and experienced a 4th degree tear.  I had persistent pain for months, went to physical therapy, and ultimately had corrective surgery when my son was 11 months old.  I am doing much better now, but I still occasionally have issues with bowel movements and discomfort.  I too experienced depression which was exacerbated by my daily pain and unable to carry my son without pain. 

    I would love to hear an update...my husband and I would like to have a second child, but I have lots of concerns.  I would love to hear how things went with your second pregnancy and delivery!

    Archived User

    Hi Ladies,

    I wanted to get my post up here to let you all know what i ended up doing.  I first wanted to thank Henci for her amazing guidance.

    After reading through her post, i proceeded to meeting with another OB, which was after the specialist.  His name is Dr. Mourad and he works with Southwest women's care.  The irony is that he was recommended to me by way of my doula's best friend, who is a midwife.  She had mentioned that Dr. Mourad was very sympathetic to the women's need to take her time during labor, etc.  I felt that if I was going to go with a delivery in a hospital, I wanted to be sure that my Dr. and I had like minds.  I was feeling rather concerned that my original OB had mentioned that a C-section would be 'fun'.  she was trying to minimize the fear she knew i had, but the method she took was perceived by me as rather dismissive.

    Upon meeting with Dr. Mourad, I felt a wave of peace.  It turned out that the specialist I had seen had his last two children delivered by Dr. Mourad- that and the fact that my doula's midwife friend recommended him seemed all too ironic.  Additionally, he took the time to really listen to me, my concerns, my history and he made his assessment. He too said that if i was his wife, he'd really ask me to consider a c-section.    when i asked him what it would be like, he said first day was honeymoon, second day i would feel like i was hit by a mack truck.  at least he didn't tell me it would be fun.

    I left the dr. appt with my hubby and took a lot of time to consider the options i had been given.  i meditated, talked to my therapist and decided this-

    It's not about making the RIGHT decision (vs. wrong decision) but rather making the choice that works best for me.  so to all you ladies out there, LISTEN to your heart, surround yourself with people who love you and get advocates.  whatever the decision, it's not about being right or wrong.  once you get beyond that, I believe it's far easier to deal with the decision.  mind you though- it didn't mean that i didn't have a TON of baggage to cry my way through to come to my conclusion.

    when i meditated and thought about how i wanted isabelle (my daughter) to come into the world, i realized that i could see Dr. Mourad reaching into my belly, gently helping isabelle and welcoming her with his peaceful presence.  so...at 32 weeks pregnant, i changed dr's.  it felt right.  i asked how i could make this c section birth 'mine'.  dr. mourad discussed how he could move the muscle instead of cutting through it, how he would use instruments that were gentler to my skin and how we could have our own music, etc.  he knew that this was a hard decision for me, and even arranged to have the suction capped so i wouldn't hear the sound as well as arranged to not to have my arms strapped.

    my c-section was beautiful.  my husband planned the song 'brown eyed girl' to play at about 15 min. in and exactly at that time, isabelle came into the world.  she was screaming and crying, but as soon as she was cleaned up, she was brought over to me and she heard my voice- she stopped crying immediately and cooed with me.  even more ironic- the gentleman who had given me my epidural with my first was the SAME who gave me the spinal block for isabelle.and we were at a different hospital this time.  i know that i had a lot of people thinking about me that day- i felt more strength than i ever did with ben- but i was also far less scared and close-minded about the experience.  i went in with an open mind.

    i sent out into the world that i needed a peaceful delivery and this was it for me.  despite all my fears, misgivings about c-sections, etc. this was the right choice for me and i was the one who made it and it was magnificent. i scheduled my c-section for the 17th of august. it was like making a hair appointment and walking out with a baby.  for all the trauma i experienced with the birth of my first, this has been a far easier recovery.  isabelle latched immediately (first try) post-op and has been a healthy nursing baby since day one.  aside from cracked nipples through day 10, we're doing great now at 3 weeks.

    i can't tell you what to do, but i can say that i wouldn't trade either of my birthing experiences for the world.  I was a birthing warrior with my first.  my second allowed me to leave that behind and to focus on my family, my recovery, etc.  my incision was perfect, i was out of the hospital in 2 days.  i was up walking around the park at 1 week and i was driving (don't tell my ob) at the beginning of 2 weeks.  there have been days where i've probably done too much, but afternoon naps have helped immensely. 

    good luck to all of you!  trust yourselves! 

     

    xox

    jenn

    Archived User

    Again, thank you for sharing your experience!  It is wonderful to hear your story and know that you and baby are home and healthy.  I know you're busy with an infant, but if you get the chance would you share about how your second pregnancy affected your body/pelvic floor?

    I underwent a surgical repair when my son was 11 months old because I was having lots of pain and other issues.  The surgeon had to reattach my sphincter muscle and realign things in my pelvic floor.  I feel much better now, but I am concerned about whether or not my pelvic floor is strong enough to carry a pregnancy.  I am also concerned that a pregnancy may trigger my pain again...because when I lift too much or work out too hard I am sore for a couple days after and my son is 2 1/2 now.  So, I worry that carry a pregnancy might put too much strain on all my scar tissue.  What was your experience?  Any pelvic problems during the pregnancy?  Any incontinence issues?

    LT

     

     

    Henci Goer
    Posted By on 08 Sep 2010 11:55 AM

    Hi Ladies,

    I wanted to get my post up here to let you all know what i ended up doing.  I first wanted to thank Henci for her amazing guidance.

    After reading through her post, i proceeded to meeting with another OB, which was after the specialist.  His name is Dr. Mourad and he works with Southwest women's care.  The irony is that he was recommended to me by way of my doula's best friend, who is a midwife.  She had mentioned that Dr. Mourad was very sympathetic to the women's need to take her time during labor, etc.  I felt that if I was going to go with a delivery in a hospital, I wanted to be sure that my Dr. and I had like minds.  I was feeling rather concerned that my original OB had mentioned that a C-section would be 'fun'.  she was trying to minimize the fear she knew i had, but the method she took was perceived by me as rather dismissive.

    Upon meeting with Dr. Mourad, I felt a wave of peace.  It turned out that the specialist I had seen had his last two children delivered by Dr. Mourad- that and the fact that my doula's midwife friend recommended him seemed all too ironic.  Additionally, he took the time to really listen to me, my concerns, my history and he made his assessment. He too said that if i was his wife, he'd really ask me to consider a c-section.    when i asked him what it would be like, he said first day was honeymoon, second day i would feel like i was hit by a mack truck.  at least he didn't tell me it would be fun.

    I left the dr. appt with my hubby and took a lot of time to consider the options i had been given.  i meditated, talked to my therapist and decided this-

    It's not about making the RIGHT decision (vs. wrong decision) but rather making the choice that works best for me.  so to all you ladies out there, LISTEN to your heart, surround yourself with people who love you and get advocates.  whatever the decision, it's not about being right or wrong.  once you get beyond that, I believe it's far easier to deal with the decision.  mind you though- it didn't mean that i didn't have a TON of baggage to cry my way through to come to my conclusion.

    when i meditated and thought about how i wanted isabelle (my daughter) to come into the world, i realized that i could see Dr. Mourad reaching into my belly, gently helping isabelle and welcoming her with his peaceful presence.  so...at 32 weeks pregnant, i changed dr's.  it felt right.  i asked how i could make this c section birth 'mine'.  dr. mourad discussed how he could move the muscle instead of cutting through it, how he would use instruments that were gentler to my skin and how we could have our own music, etc.  he knew that this was a hard decision for me, and even arranged to have the suction capped so i wouldn't hear the sound as well as arranged to not to have my arms strapped.

    my c-section was beautiful.  my husband planned the song 'brown eyed girl' to play at about 15 min. in and exactly at that time, isabelle came into the world.  she was screaming and crying, but as soon as she was cleaned up, she was brought over to me and she heard my voice- she stopped crying immediately and cooed with me.  even more ironic- the gentleman who had given me my epidural with my first was the SAME who gave me the spinal block for isabelle.and we were at a different hospital this time.  i know that i had a lot of people thinking about me that day- i felt more strength than i ever did with ben- but i was also far less scared and close-minded about the experience.  i went in with an open mind.

    i sent out into the world that i needed a peaceful delivery and this was it for me.  despite all my fears, misgivings about c-sections, etc. this was the right choice for me and i was the one who made it and it was magnificent. i scheduled my c-section for the 17th of august. it was like making a hair appointment and walking out with a baby.  for all the trauma i experienced with the birth of my first, this has been a far easier recovery.  isabelle latched immediately (first try) post-op and has been a healthy nursing baby since day one.  aside from cracked nipples through day 10, we're doing great now at 3 weeks.

    i can't tell you what to do, but i can say that i wouldn't trade either of my birthing experiences for the world.  I was a birthing warrior with my first.  my second allowed me to leave that behind and to focus on my family, my recovery, etc.  my incision was perfect, i was out of the hospital in 2 days.  i was up walking around the park at 1 week and i was driving (don't tell my ob) at the beginning of 2 weeks.  there have been days where i've probably done too much, but afternoon naps have helped immensely. 

    good luck to all of you!  trust yourselves! 

     

    xox

    jenn



    I am sooo glad you found my Forum helpful in guiding you to the decision that felt right for you and that it led you to find a care provider so compassionate and respectful of your wishes. Congratulations on the birth of your daughter!

    ~ Henci

    Archived User

    hi my name is nicola im 27... i had my first daughter in may 2004, it was a very traumatic birth as iwas told to sit on the birthing stool to deliver the baby.  I was on the stool for 3 and a half hours pushing, i had no help delivering and i ended witha prolaps vagina. i had a ball the size of a large orange for at least 6 weeks after the birth and i still have complications. As a result of that birth for my second daughter i was under a consultant. The labour was quick lasting 5 hours. When i began to push i has emence pain in my bottom that just felt wrong, i was told by the mw to push through the pain. After a short while her head was deliverd, that was fine then, her arm came through   my bottom.... shed burst through my birth cannal and my anus... she made a hole next to my bottom hole with her arm. then the doctors came and pushed her arm back in and pulled her out of my vagina. i waited 6 hours to go to surgery where i was there for 2 hours.... im having a lot of problems and pain due to this birth....i just wounderd if any one else has had or heard of this happening befor??

    Henci Goer

    Unfortunately, I have been in a car accident and am recovering from knee surgery. I will not be able to respond to your question at this time. Apologies.

    ~ Henci

    Archived User

    I had a spontanious 4th degree tear with my first (a 8lb 12oz, 21 inches long, 34 1/2 cm head) in an all fours compleatly natural home birth. I am looking for more info on what I can do this time to prevent a repeat severe tear. My birth story and video can be found here: http://www.harvestofdailylife.com/e...23rd-2009/

    Personally, I don't even remember tearing and didn't have that much pain while laboring. After birth it was painful and most importantly super expensive. I'll do anything to avoid needing to have musles repaired this time around.

    I found supporting the legs in laying positions was very difficult and I doubt I'll be able to manage a sidelying position. Do you think a water birth could help or is is best to jus focus on less forceful pushing or both?

    I am open to any suggestions!

    Henci Goer

    If you have surfed this thread, you will know that I'm about what the research has to say on the issues, and I'm not aware of any research on anal sphincter tears and waterbirth. I'm not a midwife or doctor either, so I can't speak from a clinical perspective. That being said, from what I know about waterbirth, it sounds like a good idea. If you haven't already, I suggest seeing if you can get more information from Waterbirth International. Barbara Harper, its founder, would be the expert on any issue having to do with waterbirth. I can tell you that less forceful pushing will help. That is in the research. In particular, birthing the head in between contractions reduces tearing.

    ~ Henci

    Archived User
    Posted By on 13 Nov 2010 01:18 PM

    I had a spontanious 4th degree tear with my first (a 8lb 12oz, 21 inches long, 34 1/2 cm head) in an all fours compleatly natural home birth. I am looking for more info on what I can do this time to prevent a repeat severe tear. My birth story and video can be found here: http://www.harvestofdailylife.com/e...23rd-2009/

    Personally, I don't even remember tearing and didn't have that much pain while laboring. After birth it was painful and most importantly super expensive. I'll do anything to avoid needing to have musles repaired this time around.

    I found supporting the legs in laying positions was very difficult and I doubt I'll be able to manage a sidelying position. Do you think a water birth could help or is is best to jus focus on less forceful pushing or both?

    I am open to any suggestions!



    Henci Goer

    I responded to your post on Nov 25. I'll paste in what I wrote:

    If you have surfed this thread, you will know that I'm about what the research has to say on the issues, and I'm not aware of any research on anal sphincter tears and waterbirth. I'm not a midwife or doctor either, so I can't speak from a clinical perspective. That being said, from what I know about waterbirth, it sounds like a good idea. If you haven't already, I suggest seeing if you can get more information from Waterbirth International. Barbara Harper, its founder, would be the expert on any issue having to do with waterbirth. I can tell you that less forceful pushing will help. That is in the research. In particular, birthing the head in between contractions reduces tearing.

    If you are interested in trying a side-lying position and find supporting the leg difficult yourself, your partner or labor companion can lift the leg during pushing contractions and either support the leg or help you draw it in toward you while bending the knee. The person lifting the leg should be careful to lift it straight up and not put any twist on the knee.

    -- Henci

    Archived User

    I experienced a 4th degree laceration with the birth of my first child - 9lbs 11oz.  The nurses joked calling it a "low C-section". My second child was 7 years later and I delivered with an intact perineum, but due to pre-eclampsia she was smaller 7lbs 11oz and 3 weeks early (induced labor). I believe that fact that I had a dula with my second child was the reason I delivered with and intact perineum. I think relaxation and visualization of the delivery during my labor were key to no tears. Of course I did joke that there were signs saying exit this way. The first delivery was a Mack Truck, the second was a sports car...

     

    Archived User

    Hello, I had a 4th degree laceration with my 1st born back in 3/2006, they did use forceps and vacuum, and it was an induced labor due to her not growing in the uterus. She was born 2 weeks early, and 5lbs 12oz. My OB suggested a c/s for my second and I trusted her recommendation, and had a c/s with my 2nd in 8/2007. I am now pregnant with my 3rd and due on 6/2011.  I am strongly considering a vaginal birth this time around after doing more research.  The recovery from the c/s was very painful, more than the 4th degree laceration, and it was long.  My doctor still recommends a c/s but will support my decision. Any insight?

    Maria

    Archived User

    To add to the post above...OB also said that their is a possibility of me having a 4th degree laceration due to being very petite, and that my pelvis is potentially too narrow.  My second born was 6lbs 2oz.

    Thanks again!

    Maria

    Henci Goer

    If you have read through this topic, you now know what the research has to say about anal sphincter tears, i.e. they rarely occur during spontaneous vaginal births with no episiotomy, and they rarely re-occur with spontaneous vaginal birth with no episiotomy. (That, by the way, is without considering other contributing factors such as pushing position and conventional management of the actual birth.)

    Leaving the anal tear issue aside, the more important point here is you have a physician who thinks you will be unable to birth your baby vaginally. That belief is likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, if not during the pregnancy--reluctant doctors have been known to try to frighten women away from going ahead with VBAC, to set up barriers such as going into labor by their due date, or to outright refuse VBAC when it is too late to change providers--then during labor. I have studies showing that obs give less time in labor and are more likely to call a cesarean for inadequate progress in early labor when it is a VBAC labor. For this reason, I suggest you change care providers to someone more supportive. Referral sources include local International Cesarean Awareness Network chapters, local Birth Network chapters, or through your local doulas and independent childbirth educators. Another possibility is the Birth Survey. As for how to determine whether the care provider you're considering is a better fit, Choices in Childbirth has a booklet that includes an article on questions to ask a provider. It also has an article on VBAC that you might find helpful.

    ~ Henci

    Archived User

    I am so happy to report that I had a talk with my OB, and she is fully supportive of my wishes, I am considering hiring a doula, to help me with labor and trying to go without an epidural.  I am so excited at the chance to have a natural birth, with the support of my doctor. I just wanted to give an update! Thanks Henci!

    Henci Goer

    I am delighted to hear this! Please let me and the Forum's readers know how everything goes.

    ~ Henci

    P.S. The Lamaze website for parents has lots of helpful information for you. Enjoy!

    Archived User

    Henci,

    I am reading your book, "The thinking women's guide to a better birth," and I love it by the way!

    I know the book was written/published in 1999, my question is there do you know if there is an update resources with newer data being that the research you used in your book is from before 1999? I am curious to see what some of the data is like after 12 years.

    Thanks for your help!

    Maria

    Henci Goer

    As you may or may not know, I am finishing the manuscript for a new edition of my first book, Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities.  As soon as I turn it in, I plan to revise TWGBB.  In the meantime, as people request evidence-based info on topics, I have supplied them from the manuscript's chapters. If you are specifically interested in whether I have additional data on subsequent vaginal birth after an anal sphincter tear, I can see if there is anything new to add.

    ~ Henci 

    Archived User

    Henci,

    That would be great! I am also happy to report that I have a doula for my birth, and I have given a copy of your book to my doctor, and she is very interested in reading it as well.  My husband and I are going to watch "The Business of Being Born," it looks like a good infomational movie.

    Thanks for everything...I feel so empowered to be so informed!

    Maria

    Henci Goer

    So I'm just going to paste in the relevant mini-review and the sources:

    Excerpt from the manuscript of Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities, authors Henci Goer & Amy Romano, to be published by University of Michigan Press

    Anal lacerations rarely recur at subsequent births provided no median episiotomy is done.
    Note: No study could be found that evaluated the effect of mediolateral episiotomy on repeat anal sphincter injury.
    Four studies provide data that allow evaluation of the effect of median episiotomy on likelihood of recurrent anal sphincter laceration. All found that avoiding episiotomy substantially reduces risk. One study looked at 1895 women having two vaginal births and no episiotomy at the second birth.48 Of 220 women with an anal injury at first birth, 2 (0.9%) had an anal laceration at the second birth. This was similar to the anal laceration rate (0.7%) in women at second birth who did not have an anal laceration at the first birth. Eighteen percent were delivered by vacuum extraction at the second birth and 2% by forceps. A second study of 4015 women reported that the anal laceration rate at second vaginal birth in women prior anal laceration was 7.5%.54 However rates were 2.1% in the 286 women having spontaneous birth without episiotomy versus 10.6% in the 376 women having spontaneous birth with episiotomy and 0% in the 17 women having instrumental vaginal delivery without episiotomy versus 21.4% in the 56 women having instrumental vaginal delivery with episiotomy. A third study reported on a population of 23,451 women giving birth vaginally of whom 778 (3.3%) had anal sphincter laceration.27 Among women with anal sphincter injury, 271 had a subsequent birth of whom 6 (2.4%) had a second anal sphincter injury, a similar percentage to the rate at first birth. Numbers were too small for statistical analysis, but women having recurrent anal laceration were more likely to have episiotomy (67% vs. 7%). The fourth study evaluated 14,990 subsequent vaginal deliveries in women who sustained anal sphincter injury at the first birth.18 The recurrent anal laceration rate was 5.8% overall. Rates were 7.4% in women having spontaneous birth with episiotomy versus 4.5% in women having spontaneous birth with no episiotomy, 17.7% in women having forceps delivery with episiotomy versus 7.9% in women having forceps with no episiotomy, and 13.3% in women having vacuum extraction with episiotomy versus 5.9% in women having vacuum extraction with no episiotomy. After adjustment for correlating risk factors, episiotomy more than doubled the chance of recurrent anal laceration (OR 2.1).  

     

    18. Dandolu V, Gaughan JP, Chatwani AJ, et al. Risk of recurrence of anal sphincter lacerations. Obstet Gynecol 2005;105(4):831-5.

    27. Edwards H, Grotegut C, Harmanli OH, et al. Is severe perineal damage increased in women with prior anal sphincter injury? J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 2006;19(11):723-7.

    48. Martin S, Labrecque M, Marcoux S, et al. The association between perineal trauma and spontaneous perineal tears. J Fam Pract 2001;50(4):333-7.

    54. Peleg D, Kennedy CM, Merrill D, et al. Risk of repetition of a severe perineal laceration. Obstet Gynecol 1999;93(6):1021-4.

    I'm delighted to read that you are feeling empowered. That is really what it is all about. The research shows that satisfaction with the birth experience depends on whether the woman felt she was supported and treated kindly and respectfully by staff and whether she felt she was a full participant in decision making

    I would love to hear what you think of "The Business of Being Born."

    ~ Henci

     

    Archived User

    Hi Henci-

    I'm so glad I found this website.  I gave birth to my first child 17 months ago when I was 35 years old.  I suffered a 4th degree tear; no epidural, no episiotomy.  I've been frustrated with the lasting results ever since then.  My daughter apparently had her arm out, and bent at the elbow with her hand behind her back, so the shoulders were far wider (considering her arm sticking out) than the doctor could have known.  She luckily suffered no injury, but tore me terribly.  The doctor said it was the worst tear he'd seen in over 10 years, and had to make fast work of getting the placenta out so he could stitch me up before I lost too much blood.  I'm sure he repaired me well under the given conditions (at least the nurses all told me it was an excellent job for such a bad tear) but I'm frustrated with the results.  Perhaps everyone has vaginal changes after birth? I wouldn't know since this is my first.  The perinium feels bigger; perhaps scarred, and bleeds frequently (not a lot of blood, but obvious when I wipe after going to the bathroom.)  Also, I can feel some skin not quite stitched straight - like it's tugged a bit to one side.  The worst thing though is a large flap of bulging skin at the entrance to the vagina.  It is very difficult to get a tampon in right, and though I haven't been very sexually active since this whole ordeal, when I am, I can't seem to feel much anymore.  Are all of these issues normal?  Is there any research you've done to find out what women can do to make the lasting results of the repaired tear easier to live with?  Also, at my post pardum checkup, I asked what would happen if I did have more children.  The NP noted they'd watch the scar tissue carefully during delivery, and if it looked like it wasn't stretching and may tear, they'd cut in the OPPOSITE direction of the tear, to try to avoid it tearing all along the same line again and through the sphincter.  Is this normal?  I appreciate any feedback, and will be checking out the "Solace" website you mentioned in previous threads. 

    Henci Goer

    I am so sorry that this has happened to you, and I don't know that I can be of much help because my expertise is in what the research supports as best practices for promoting safe, healthy birth in general, not clinical isues such as yours. Clearly, though, however well done the repair at the time, you are still suffering complications. Have you considered being evaluated for a reconstructive surgery to see if you can get better results? As for what the NP said, not being a clinician, I don't know whether cutting in the opposite direction is the way to go or not, but if you read through this thread, you will have seen research-based recommendations on how to minimize the chance of a repeat tear at a second birth. I hope you find Solace helpful.

    ~ Henci   

    Archived User

    Henci and forum,

    I wanted to give an update on my experience after suffering a 4th degree laceration on my 1st birth, C-section on my second, and finally my attempt to have a VBAC on my 3rd.

    After reading Henci's book, Your Best Birth, watching "The business of being born" and "Orgasmic Birth," I felt I had so much knowledge during my 3rd pregnancy.  As mentioned before in my post, my doctor was supportive of my VBAC, and supportive of my hiring a doula.  My VBAC didn't come easy, I had obstacles along the way.

    During my 33 week, I started bleeding unexpectedly, and was hospitalized for 3 days, supposedly for preterm labor, I never dialated and no one could really explain why the bleeding occured.  After that everything went on business as usual, with the exception of bedrest until I was full term. During this time I was told I was a GBS positive (Group B Strep, which I wasn't with my 1st or 2nd), and all along baby had a 2 vessel cord. Even with all of this I was confident in having a VBAC, and I knew that I had the knowledge to fight any rebuttal.

    Week 37 came and went, so did week 38, 39, and 40.  I was off of bedrest and was given the liberty to do anything I needed to bring baby on. I knew as week 40 approached I would be pressured to "do" something.  When week 40 came my doctor knew that there were few options to induce given that I was GBS positive, so I told her that that I wanted to go another week and go into labor spotaneously, and she hesitantly agreed.  I tried everything, teas, tinctures, intercourse, nipple stimulation, accupressure and accupuncture, walking, you name it I did it, and nothing.  I had a been a walking 3cm for 3 weeks, and 30% effaced, and no progress.  My doctor expressed how nervous she was getting, and she said that I was contracting but not progressing.  As my doula put it, was is there to be nervous about, baby just isn't ready, and I agreed.  I trusted my body, I had BPP and NST's done weekly and baby was thriving.

    At week 41, my doctor wanted me to go into the hospital, to see what my progress was and moniter baby. I hestitated but gave in.  I called my doula and she met me there. My doctor tried to convince me to have a c-section saying it would be the safest way to bring baby into the world, and I rejected, and said that if she was not going to let me go home, and that if induction was imminent, then I wanted to use  a foley catheter, and she agreed without a rebuttal--no drugs. No matter what I needed antibiotics due to the GBS, but we had a hep lock IV so I could be free to labor as desired.  When doctor when in to put in the foley catheter, she noticed my cervix was softening, so she decided to strip my membranes, and that got my labor going immediately, I was contracting every 4-5 minutes, and getting stronger.  Doctor said that if no progress was made after a couple of hours, she would start a low dose of pitocin, and I refused.  She gave me more than two hours to labor and get things going naturally without the pitocin. Unfortunately I did not progress and Pitocin was inevitable.  I was disappointed but I knew that was better than going into a c-section.  After 12 hours of labor, my doctor came in and did an exam, my contractions at this point were 1 minute apart and very strong.  Doctor broke my water and turned off pitocin, and I had Baby Lilly within the hour.  I labor on my hands and knees, and gave birth vaginally unmedicated to a heatlhy 7lb 9oz baby girl!! I had my VBAC, after everyone telling me that my odds especially after my due date were not likely!  I requested an nurse that was for VBAC's, and supportive of an unmedicated birth!

    I think running into this forum made the difference for me, had I not, I think I would have had a repeat c, and that would have been that. Instead, I educated myself, empowered myself to stand up for what I believed in, and had the birth experience I deserved! I became an active participant in my pregnancy and my birth.

    Thank you Henci, for all that you do, you have more advocate on your side, now every friend that I have that is pregnant, I tell them they have to read your book, at the very least so that they have the knowledge to stand up for themselves during a very important event in their life.

    Maria

    Henci Goer

    I love happy endings! And I am glad that I helped you on your journey. I have a question, though: Did you repeat the anal sphincter tear, which was the concern that brought you to this Forum originally?

    ~ Henci

    Archived User

    Henci,

    I barely tore, my OB was very pleased, and no episiotomy was done either.

    Very happy mommy!

    Maria

    Henci Goer

    I am delighted to hear this! ~ Henci

    Archived User

    I had my first baby, 7lb6oz boy, by induced vaginal delivery at 42 weeks in August 08 with no complications.  My daughter was induced at 41 weeks and born with a broken clavical at 9lbs1oz in February 10.  She had great apgars and looked like a healthy toddler when they handed her to me.  However, I endured crazy pitocin hikes, and an "emergency" vacuum assist that left me with a 4th degree tear and 3 units of blood loss.  They stitched me up ( I think it was 84 stitches) and sent me off to maternity/newborn room; 2 days later I passed out and fell-requiring a blood transfusion and then was sent home the following morning.  I went in to see my OB 8 weeks later for my check-up and told him of the concerns I had regarding the tear not healing.  He siad everything sounded normal and it would take me several more weeks to feel "normal" again.  I waitind a few weeks and called in again because I felt like I had no control over my backside at all and even felt like (sorry bout the TMI) my front and back were not seperate places.  I was told this is all normal and it takes some women several months to heal completely and not to worry  (this was repeated several times over the next months).  Well, my daughter turned 2 last month and I am 10 weeks pregnant, due in October.  I am terrified of going through this again!  I have read that there are many tests, exams, etc. that should have been done to assess "the damages", yet I was never talked to or seen about any consequences of this injury.  Is there anything I should be doing to check this out now, or any way to know if I am ok to attempt vaginal delivery again this time?

    Henci Goer

    I would definitely get an evaluation done by a different doctor, and, frankly, given this doctor's treatment of you, I would be looking for a different midwife or doctor for care in this pregnancy and birth if you have not already done so. (Write again if you want some ideas for how to go about finding and choosing a new care provider.) As for what mode of birth to plan, if you have read through the posts on this thread, you will have seen that:

    • Modifiable factors such as position for birth, episiotomy, and instrumental delivery increase likelihood of severe tears. One or more of these may have played a role in your injuries at your daughter's birth.
    • Spontaneous birth without episiotomy in a position other than on your back and in which you birth the head gently between contractions reduces the odds of another 4th degree tear down to no more than it was before you had the first one.
    • Cesarean surgery is not without risks, some of them serious.

    In addition, it is clear from what you write that your daughter's birth and its aftermath was emotionally as well as physically traumatic for you. I recommend that you get in touch with Solace for Mothers, an online support group for women who have had difficult births. The best thing you can do to take care of yourself and this next baby is to get support and information for dealing with your emotional issues so that the decisions you make in this next pregnancy are not driven by them.

    ~ Henci


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