Episiotomy: A surgical procedure for widening the outlet of the birth canal to facilitate delivery of the baby and to avoid a jagged rip of the area between the anus and the vulva (perineum). During an episiotomy, an incision is made between the vagina and the rectum. The usual cut goes straight down and does not involve the muscles around the rectum or the rectum itself. An episiotomy can decrease the amount of maternal pushing, and it may also decrease trauma to the vaginal tissues and expedite delivery of the baby when quick delivery is necessary. However, episiotomies are associated with increased incidence of extensions or tears into the muscle of the rectum or even the rectum itself. Episiotomies and natural tearing can often be avoided with the use of perineal massage during delivery. Repair of the episiotomy is by simple stitching.
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Last Editorial Review: 3/19/2012