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.
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
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.
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 medicine.
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:
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.brighamandwomens.org/departments_and_services/obgyn/services/midwifery/patient/episiotomies.aspx. Accessed August 13, 2012.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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