What measurement means for vaginal delivery and perineum tears

Childbirth puts enormous pressure on the perineum (the area between a woman’s vagina and anus) which must stretch to accommodate the baby's head during delivery. This pressure can cause the perineum to tear.

Tears can happen on their own or when medical instruments such as a vacuum or forceps are used. Some tears heal quickly and cause little or no discomfort. More severe tears may cause discomfort, require stitches, and can take months to heal.

Patients who experience a vaginal tear during delivery are at risk for complications such as:

  • Infection
  • Hematoma  (collection of blood) inside the tear
  • Leakage of stool or gas (if the tear extends to the anus)
  • Damage to the cervix
How to understand Vaginal Tear Rates

Tear rates do not always represent medical errors. Some hospitals may experience a greater number of patients with tears because they handle more complex deliveries. Our tear rate information is shown as a comparison between a hospital’s actual tear rate and the rate expected for that hospital. A rate that is the “Same” or “Better” than expected can be a sign of high-quality care.