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.
An episiotomy is done to help some births. It will make the vaginal opening larger. An episiotomy may be done if:
Episiotomy is no longer routinely done.
Some short-term problems may include:
The risk of problems is higher with:
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.
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.
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The process will only take a few minutes.
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.
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.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
If you think you have 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 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