(Perineum Incision; Incision, Perineum)
by Julie Rackliffe Lucey, MS
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.
Reasons for Procedure
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:
Possible Complications TOP
Some short-term complications may include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
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.
Description of the Procedure
The infant's head will start to stretch the vaginal opening. The doctor will then use special scissors to make an incision in the perineum area.
There are two different incisions that may be used:
After delivery of the baby and placenta, your doctor will close the incision with absorbable stitches.
How Long Will It Take?
This is done during childbirth.
Will It Hurt?
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 medicine.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay for vaginal delivery is two days. An episiotomy will not extend your stay.
Your stitches will dissolve in about 10 days. The cut will heal within about two weeks. There may still be some soreness until the skin gets its natural strength back. This could take up to six weeks. During that time, you may find it uncomfortable to sit or walk. Ways to care for your perineum include:
Call Your Doctor TOP
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help 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
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 . Accessed August 13, 2012.
Episiotomies. Brigham and Women's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.brigham... . Accessed August 13, 2012.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013