Well, I'm worried about it because I had a bad 2nd degree tear last time (it required multiple stitches of both the muscle layer and skin layer), and it took forever to heal from (particularly enough to DTD--I think it was about 6 mos). It didn't really hurt when it happened, though, because I had gotten a pudendal block. That was the only pain medication I got during the whole labor/birth, and it was because I had been pushing for almost 4 hours at that point, and I was getting exhausted, and the OB tried lubrication and stretching the perineum before doing the block, but it was very painful and it seemed like I was going to tear, so she suggested (and my doula agreed) the block would be a good idea. Maybe I wouldn't have torn so badly if I didn't have the block, but after 4 hours of hard pushing I was practically ready for them to try to yank DD out with forceps, so I was willing to do anything they thought would help.
I have read that being in a side-lying or hands and knees position when the baby crowns can greatly reduce the risk of tearing, so I am going to try that this time--anything to get the full downward weight of the baby's head off the perineum. Perineal massage/stretching is also recommended for several weeks before birth, so I'm going to start doing that now, too.
Mom to sweet DD 8/08, and adorable DS 10/20/10