Slide show: Vaginal tears in childbirth
Illustration of a third-degree vaginal tear
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Third-degree vaginal tears involve the vaginal tissues, perineal muscles and the muscle that surrounds the anus (anal sphincter). These tears sometimes require repair in an operating room — rather than the delivery room — and might take months to heal. Complications such as fecal incontinence and painful intercourse are possible.

To ease discomfort in the meantime:

  • Sit on a pillow or padded ring.
  • Pour warm water over your vulva as you're passing urine, and rinse yourself with a squeeze bottle afterward. Press a clean pad firmly against the wound when you bear down for a bowel movement.
  • Cool the wound with an ice pack, or place a chilled witch hazel pad between a sanitary napkin and the wound.
  • Take pain relievers or stool softeners as recommended by your health care provider.
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