The perineum is the skin at the back edge of the vagina. As your baby's head passes through this part of you, the skin will stretch and can sometime tear a little or a lot.
There are many ways to reduce the risk of this -
Perineal Massage - Massage the area from 34 weeks of pregnancy daily, or at least 2-3 times per week - watch the video above for technique.
Position during birth - Using active positions during birth such as all 4's, standing, and variations on between will have a dramatic effect on the speed and ease of labour compared with lying on your back. Attending a weekly class such as pregnancy yoga to practice these positions and work out how you are most comfortable will also improve the chance of you birthing in a positive posiition.
Breathing your baby out - This term has been coined by the hypnobirthing movement and means to not do any concious pushing during the second stage of labour. Your body and your baby are so wise - they know just the speed at which to push, sometimes your body will take over with very forcefull pushing contractions, other times it will happen slowly and calmly. So no screams of PUSH PUUUSH!!! Just gentle downwards breathing, releasing your pevic floor muscles and letting your body guide the way.
This method can take longer than caregivers are comfortable with due to arbitary hospital time limits - you may want to make sure how they feel about this, and be clear that you are happy for birth to take as long as it needs to as long as you and your baby are happy and comfortable.
Choose your place of birth wisely - Check statistics of your local units at Which Birth Choices HERE. Homebirths have the lowest rate of tears and episiotomy (when a midwife or doctor cuts the perineum) followed by stand alone birth centres, then alongside birth centres (such as Oldham, and North Manchester) with consultant led units having the worst rate.
Be wary of unecessary interventions - Many interventions commonly offered, such as breaking of waters, and hormone drips are designed to force baby down into your pelvis more quickly. Sometimes baby is not ready to move down and may have just needed more time to rotate or move into an optimum birthing position. Other times the additional stress of more forceful contractions means baby begins to get distressed and more time pressures are added.
In any case it is widely accepted that one intervention often leads to another so be very sure the intervention offers more benefit than risks and you are sure it is what you want.
Choose you carers with care - Having a known midwifeand one to one care dramatically improves your chance of having a straightforward birth. If this is not possible you can hire a Doula to provide continuity - See Doula UK for more info.
Which Birth Choices - Helping you decide where to give birth https://www.which.co.uk/birth-choice
Find a local Pregnancy Yoga Class - Yoga Mummies Manchester
Doula UK - https://doula.org.uk/what-doulas-do/