Episiotomy

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What is an episiotomy?

An episiotomy is an incision made between the vagina and the rectum in order to increase the size of the opening of the vagina and facilitate the delivery of a baby.

How common is episiotomy?

An episiotomy is performed in a large percentage of vaginal deliveries in the United States, but the prevalence of episiotomy has been decreasing in recent years. Some countries have significantly lower episiotomy rates than the U.S. In general, episiotomy is less common in Europe than in the U.S.

How is an episiotomy done?

The usual cut (incision) for an episiotomy goes straight down and typically does not involve the muscles around the rectum or the rectum itself. Anesthesia in the form of nerve blocks or local injections of anesthetic are given if the patient has not received regional anesthesia (such an epidural) for the delivery.

What are the advantages of an episiotomy?

An episiotomy can decrease the amount of pushing the mother must do during delivery. It can also decrease trauma to the vaginal tissues and expedite delivery of the baby when delivery must be accomplished expiditiously. Doctors who favor episiotomies argue that a surgical incision is easier to repair than a spontaneous irregular or extensive tear, and is likely to lead to a more favorable outcome with fewer complications.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/19/2015

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