The perineum is the area between the vagina and the anus. It is made up of skin and muscle. During an episiotomy, an incision is made in the perineum.
The incision is made to make the vaginal opening larger during birth. In the past, this incision was common. But it is no longer routinely done.
Your doctor may do an episiotomy if:
Some short-term complications may include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
During a prenatal visit, talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of an episiotomy.
If you have not had epidural anesthesia during labor, the doctor may use local or regional anesthesia.
The infant's head will start to stretch the vaginal opening. Special scissors will be used to make an incision in the perineum area.
There are 2 different incisions that may be used:
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After delivery of the baby and placenta, your doctor will close the incision with absorbable stitches.
This is done during childbirth.
If you receive anesthesia, you will not feel pain during the procedure. After delivery, most women have discomfort and swelling. You may need to take pain medication.
The usual length of stay for vaginal delivery is 2 days. An episiotomy will not extend your stay.
Your stitches will dissolve in about 10 days. The cut will heal within about 2 weeks. There may still be some soreness until the skin gets its natural strength back. This could take up to 6 weeks. During that time, you may find it uncomfortable to sit or walk.
While you recover:
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American College of Nurse-Midwives
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Episiotomies. Brigham and Women's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.brighamandwomens.org/departments_and_services/obgyn/services/midwifery/patient/episiotomies.aspx. Accessed October 8, 2015.
Episiotomy. ACOG practice bulletin No. 71. Obstet Gynecol. 2006;107:957-962.
Episiotomy. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/labornbirth/episiotomy.html. Updated August 2015. Accessed October 8, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Andrea Chisholm, MD