Why Do Doctors Shave You Before Delivery of Your Baby?

Medically Reviewed on 4/14/2022

Reasons for shaving before delivery

Pregnancy labor shave of the perineum before delivery is usually a topic for debate. Doctors may shave you before delivery for hygiene reasons or to reduce the risk of infection due to a surgical incision or C-section incision.
Pregnancy labor shave of the perineum before delivery is usually a topic for debate. Doctors may shave you before delivery for hygiene reasons or to reduce the risk of infection due to a surgical incision or C-section incision.

Pregnancy labor shave of the perineum before delivery is usually a topic for debate. Before delivering, your doctor might suggest you undergo a perineal haircut. This helps them undertake procedures efficiently and keep the area clean.

Your doctor might opt to shave you because of the following reasons:

  • Surgical incision. Shaving might be done if the pubic hair is interfering with a surgical incision. Your doctor might need a clearer view of where to perform a perfect incision without causing any injury to you.
  • C-section. If you might be scheduled for a C-section, your nurse might shave off your pubic hair on a selected area. Your nurse or doctor might need to shave off a couple of inches of your hair during this procedure to avoid any risk of infection to your hair follicles.
  • Hygiene. Some women might experience postpartum bleeding after childbirth. It’s normal to bleed after delivery because your uterus is trying to clean itself and remove any leftover placenta from your body. If you have long pubic hair, maintaining your hygiene might be difficult during this stage. Therefore, doctors may opt to save you the trouble and shave you before delivery. ‌

Disadvantages of shaving before delivery

Some of the disadvantages of shaving before delivery include:

  • Maternal embarrassment. Shaving before delivery might make you uncomfortable. Shaving pubic hair is primarily a private matter for most women. It’s normal if you feel uncomfortable during the process.
  • Infection. When your doctor uses a razor to shave your perineum, tiny cuts might accidentally develop. Tiny cuts might lead to the build-up of microorganisms that may later become an infection.
  • Discomfort during hair regrowth. It’s common for women to dislike shaving, especially on their perineum. Hair growth after a shave in this area is uncomfortable because of the possibility of ingrown hairs.

Side effects of shaving

Shaving the perineum may cause some of these side effects on your body:

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Skin irritation
  • Multiple superficial skin tears
  • Burning sensation on the vulva

What you need to know

It’s understandable if you’ve heard or read the information that advises you to shave before delivery. In previous years, traditional childbirth recommended hair removal on the pubic area before delivery.

However, modern childbirth finds that it’s not necessary to shave your pubic hair before delivery. Clinical research shows that shaving or not shaving pubic hair doesn’t necessarily affect birth. Also, shaving doesn’t affect the risk of infection on the perineal tears.

Tips to help you before delivery

Remember you’re advised to avoid shaving a week to your delivery or Caesarean birth date.

Don’t be embarrassed if you haven't shaved. It’s acceptable not to shave before delivery. Don't worry. Most doctors and nurses rarely notice. They’re busy ensuring you and your baby are safe.

Avoid razor shaving. If you remove pubic hair yourself, consider other hair removal methods first before razor shaving. The chances of you cutting yourself are high. The cuts increase the risk of infection during delivery. Nurses often opt to clip your hair if the need arises.

Stay calm. If your doctor decides to shave you during delivery, try to remain calm. It reduces the chances of getting an accidental cut.

Hair removal alternatives. There are other hair removal methods you can try at home if you’re uncomfortable with the thought of being shaved at the hospital. These methods include waxing and sugaring, electric shavers, and hair removal creams. You may use these methods to remove hair on your pubic region.

  • Waxing and sugaring. You may use this method to remove pubic hair. It’s a less harmful method since it can rarely cause micro-cuts on your skin. To wax, you might need help from a professional.
  • Electric shavers. You may use electric shavers for your pubic hair throughout the pregnancy to maintain tidiness.
  • Hair removal creams. If you’ve used hair creams before, you may opt to continue using them even during pregnancy. Remember, your skin might get overly sensitive even if you’ve used these hair removal chemicals before. Take caution when trying out new products. 

Why is a vacuum used during delivery?

Vacuum-assisted delivery is usually safe, but the following criteria have to be met to undergo a vacuum-assisted delivery safely:

  • The cervix should be completely dilated: If the cervix is not fully dilated and a vacuum is used, there is a high risk of injuring or tearing the cervix, which requires surgical repair and may affect future pregnancies.
  • The exact position of your baby’s head should be known: The vacuum should be placed over the midline of the top of the head and never on the baby’s face or brow. Hence, vacuum-assisted delivery is less likely to succeed if the baby is facing straight up.
  • The baby’s head must be engaged: The baby’s head should be engaged (fixed), meaning the baby’s head should have entered the pelvic brim or inlet. This is measured in relation to the narrowest point of the birth canal called the ischial spines. The top of the baby’s head should be aligned with the ischial spines and ideally 1-2 cm below the spines to be able to use a vacuum. The success of using a vacuum increases the baby’s head, which is visible at the vaginal opening when the mother is pushing.
  • The membranes must be ruptured: The amniotic membranes must be ruptured (also referred to as water breaking) to perform a vacuum-assisted delivery.
  • The baby should be able to fit through the birth canal: Sometimes, the baby may be too big for the birth canal; for example, in gestational diabetes, the baby’s head is bigger than average. If a vacuum-assisted delivery is attempted, it would most likely fail and result in serious complications.
  • The pregnancy must be term or near term: The risk of fetal complications following a vacuum-assisted delivery is higher in premature infants; hence, it is not to be performed before 34 weeks of pregnancy. Forceps and other techniques may be used to augment the delivery of premature infants.

Vacuum-assisted delivery augments (speeds up) the process of delivery, reduces the risk of injury to the baby, and helps avoid cesarean delivery in the following cases:

Prolonged laborThere are two stages in normal labor. The first stage of labor is characterized by regular contractions and ends with complete dilation of the cervix. It usually lasts between 12 and 20 hours if it is a woman’s first pregnancy; if not, it lasts only 7-10 hours. The second stage of labor begins with complete dilation of the cervix and ends with the delivery of the baby, which lasts one to two hours. The prolonged second stage of labor may require vacuum-assisted delivery. Prolong the second stage may occur due to

  • The use of epidural anesthesia.
  • The large size and inappropriate position of the baby.
  • A small birth canal.
  • Maternal exhaustion.

Maternal exhaustion: When the mother has been continuously pushing for more than an hour, she becomes exhausted. Hence, a vacuum can help deliver the baby.

High dose of epidural anesthesia: Epidural (regional) anesthesia may be administered to relieve pain during labor. Some women may need larger doses of medication to manage pain, inhibiting the ability to push.

Maternal medical conditions: Maternal medical conditions that affect labor and reduce her ability to push include:

Fetal problems: If the heart rate drops, oxygen supply reduces in the fetus, and the fetus can go into distress causing irreversible damage to the baby. Hence, vacuum-assisted delivery can speed up delivery.

Abnormal position of the baby’s head: If the labor is prolonged, your baby’s head may be positioned abnormally. Abnormal positions of the baby’s head include:

  • Head tilted to one side
  • Head facing to the side
  • Head facing the front when the mother is lying on her back

Forceps may turn the baby’s head to a more favorable position and then a vacuum may be used.


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Medically Reviewed on 4/14/2022

Center for Young Women's Health: "Removing Pubic Hair."

Cochrane database of systematic reviews: "Routine perineal shaving on admission in labor."

New York University: "Should you shave your pubic hair before giving birth?"

National Library of Medicine: "Randomised controlled trial of perineal shaving versus hair cutting in parturients on admission in labor."

Queensway Carleton Hospital: "Shaving Before Birth."

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center: "Having a C-section? What pregnant women should know."

MedlinePlus: "Vacuum-Assisted Delivery."

American Family Physician: "Vacuum-Assisted Vaginal Delivery."

UpToDate: "Procedure for Vacuum-Assisted Vaginal Delivery."