An episiotomy is an incision made in the perineum. The perineum is the area between the vagina and the anus. It is made up of skin and muscle.
Reasons for Procedure
An episiotomy is done to help some births. It will make the vaginal opening larger. An episiotomy may be done if:
The baby is:
or otherwise fragile
- Large and the shoulders may be hard to deliver
- Forceps or a vacuum are needed to assist in the delivery
Episiotomy is no longer routinely done.
Some short-term problems may include:
- Difficulty controlling your bowels
The risk of problems is higher with:
- Severe scar tissue in the area
problems with chronic pain in the vulva
- Short perineum
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of an episiotomy during a prenatal visit.
Epidural anesthesia may already be in use for labor pain. This will numb your lower body. The doctor may use local or
regional anesthesia. It will numb the perineum and area around it.
Description of the Procedure
The infant's head will start to stretch the vaginal opening. Special scissors will be used to make an incision in the perineum area. The incision will be closed with stitches after the baby is born.
Midline vs. Mediolateral Episiotomy
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How Long Will It Take?
The process will only take a few minutes.
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia can block pain during the procedure. The area will have discomfort and swelling from birth and episiotomy. Pain medicine will help to manage pain.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay for vaginal delivery is 2 days. An episiotomy will not make the stay longer.
It will take about 2 weeks for the cut to heal. It may be uncomfortable to walk or sit for up to 6 weeks.
Call Your Doctor
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills, swelling, redness, foul-smelling discharge
- Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
- Bleeding from the episiotomy site
- Continuing problems with
loss of urinary or bowel control
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Episiotomies. Brigham and Women's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.brighamandwomens.org/departments_and_services/obgyn/services/midwifery/patient/episiotomies.aspx. Accessed March 25, 2020.
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 March 25, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Mary-Beth Seymour, RN
Last Updated: 10/14/2020