Perineal tearing, also called vaginal tears, happens during vaginal delivery. Tearing can happen between the vaginal opening and anus; labia or clitoris. Tears can be superficial or deep. Perineal tearing includes episiotomy.
1st degree tears are the least serious and include the perineal skin and tissue directly under the skin. 1st degree tears may or may not require stitches.
2nd degree tears include the skin and muscle tissue. 2nd degree tears usually require stitches.
3rd degree tears include the vaginal skin and muscles, and the muscle that surrounds the anus (anal sphincter). This degree of tearing will require stitches.
4th degree tears go through the muscle that surrounds the anus into the anal canal or rectum.
Why does that matter to you?
More serious tears may mean a longer recovery. You can ask your clinician about the extent of the tearing you experienced.
Women with perineal tearing or bruising may have more uncomfortable sexual intercourse for up to 6 months after delivery. Women with deep tears are more likely to still have increased perineal pain (15% vs 6%) at 6 months.