A tear during labour means that you have suffered damage to the skin, tissues and occasionally muscles of your vagina and perineum - the area between your vagina and anus.
The tear could be anything from a nick in the skin to a deeper laceration and is caused by the pressure of your baby's head as she is born.
'That may sound terrible,' says John Bidmead, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at London's King's College Hospital, 'but your perineum is one area of your body that's actually designed to stretch and tear - and to heal very quickly.'
You may be given an episiotomy if it's important to get your baby out quickly, perhaps because you are tired or the baby is in distress.
'Few doctors would do one unless they really felt they had to. In most cases it's preferable to tear naturally,' says Mr Bidmead.
You may feel quite sore following the birth - sitting on a cold pad for a few minutes every few hours may help ease the discomfort. Make sure you have a cushion to sit on too. You may find wearing a thick maternity pad will also help.
A few drops of tea tree oil in a warm bath will aid healing and also help soothe the wound.
When you go to the toilet, try holding a pad over the wound when you are doing a poo to avoid the feeling that your stitches may burst (they won't). Pour warm water from a small jug over your perineum as you wee.
Some women find a tear or episiotomy gives them very little discomfort while others find it remains quite sore for several weeks. It is not abnormal to feel little improvement until five weeks after your episiotomy.
If you are worried about how you are healing, consult your GP or midwife and ask them to check you over.
Very occasionally, a woman will suffer what is known as a third-degree tear during labour. This means the tear extends to your anus. You are likely to require surgery if this is the case and you may be offered physiotherapy.
Some women with deep tears sometimes have bladder or, much more rarely, bowel problems. If you are worried, seek help. Your GP can refer you to a perineal clinic where you will receive expert attention.
Sarah had an episiotomy when her baby was born and her baby was eventually delivered with by forceps. 'I was advised that after pushing so hard and with the help of forceps, I had a very deep tear as well and I had to have quite a few stitches.
'I have been very sore at times and have to take laxatives to avoid straining and disturbing my stitches, and need to keep it clean and dry. Post-natally, it's now 16 days later and although I'm aware I have stitches, it hasn't stopped me from doing anything.
'For the first few days I was quite wobbly and couldn't stand up for long periods of time. Now I feel fine and I'm healing OK but I'm still a bit sore now and then. I have to go for physiotherapy in a few weeks.'
Aid the healing process by using warm water (not sopa) to keep yourself clean, and change maternity pads often. Pelvic floor exercises will help re-tone the muscles and boost the blood supply to your perineum.