Moms-to-Be and Episiotomies

mom holding child

If you’re pregnant, your obstetrician or midwife may have talked to you about the possible need for an episiotomy during childbirth. An episiotomy is a surgical incision made between the vagina and rectum. It enlarges the birth canal opening to help deliver your baby.

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Are episiotomies common?

In 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended against the routine use of episiotomies. As a result, most Ob/Gyn physicians avoid them.

However, episiotomies may be needed to:

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  • Help a difficult labor progress.
  • Ease a vacuum or forceps delivery.
  • Free an infant whose shoulders become wedged in the birth canal.
  • Speed delivery when the baby’s heart rate drops.

One thing episiotomies are no longer routinely used for is preventing tears in vaginal tissue. “Tearing is actually preferred to having an episiotomy. There is less tissue damage on average, and there is better healing,” explains Elisa K. Ross, MD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Ob/Gyn & Women’s Health Institute.

Obstetricians and midwives generally evaluate each patient’s unique needs at the time of delivery.

Each provider may have his or her own opinion about episiotomy. Moms-to-be should feel comfortable bringing the issue up for discussion.

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