If you’re a mother-to-be, you might need an episiotomy. This is a minor cut that widens the vaginal opening to encourage a smooth delivery. But it can be scary if you’re not sure what to expect! Here are nine things every expectant mother should know about an episiotomy.
1. Episiotomy Is Not A Routine Procedure Anymore
Once upon a time, an episiotomy was a routine part of giving birth. But now, the procedure isn’t recommended for everyone. Your doctor will determine if you should get one or not!1 It all depends on your body and baby.
2. Only Some Cases Need One
If your baby is too big for your vaginal opening, an episiotomy may prevent painful tearing. It might also be necessary if your little one’s feet or bottom comes out first. This is an abnormal position, but an episiotomy can make the delivery easier.2 The procedure also helps deliveries that need to happen quickly or require extra instruments.3
3. There Are 2 Kinds Of Episiotomies
A midline or median incision is the most common episiotomy. This is a straight vertical cut that goes from the vagina to the anus. It’s also the easiest to repair. There’s also a mediolateral incision which is a diagonal cut. It has less potential of tearing through the anus but is harder to repair. Recovery might be slightly more painful, too.4
4. The Procedure Isn’t Painful
Thanks to anesthesia, you won’t feel the actual cuts. The area around the vagina will be numb. After birth, the incisions will be repaired with dissolving stitches. But feeling mild to moderate pain during recovery is perfectly normal. Your doctor will let you know how you can safely relieve the pain.5
5. It’s Done Right Before Delivery
An episiotomy is done right before you give birth. When the doctor sees that the baby is about to come out, the cut will be made. It’ll be stitched up after both the baby and the placenta have been delivered.6
6. There Are Some Risks
Like all surgeries, an episiotomy presents a few risks. The cut might tear even more during delivery and reach the anus. You might also lose a lot of blood during the process or the cut might become infected. But depending on the situation, the benefits of an episiotomy might outweigh these risks.7
7. Recovery Takes A Month
Episiotomy recovery takes up to a month. And since the stitches dissolve, you won’t need to go back to remove them. Instead, take it easy during this time. Bathing in warm water may help you feel more comfortable. If your baby is healthy, you can take the painkillers paracetamol and ibuprofen while breastfeeding. Avoid aspirin, though.8
8. Preventing Infection Is Important
Taking care of the healing cut is crucial. This will avoid infections and even more complications. After every trip to the bathroom, clean the area. You can do this by washing it with warm water. And when you empty your bowel, wipe from front to back, away from the cut.9
9. Reduce Your Need For An Episiotomy
To lower your chances of needing an episiotomy, focus on making your body stronger before delivery. Kegel exercises can be a huge help.10 You can also massage the perineum, the area under your vagina. Use vegetable-based massage oil for best results.11 And don’t forget about prenatal yoga!
Don’t panic if you need an episiotomy. Your doctor can help you have a successful procedure and delivery. If you have concerns, be sure to ask questions.
|↑1, ↑3||Labor and delivery, postpartum care – Episiotomy: When it’s needed, when it’s not, Mayo Clinic|
|↑2, ↑4, ↑6, ↑7||Episiotomy. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑5||Episiotomy and perineal tears. NHS Choices.|
|↑8, ↑9, ↑11||Episiotomy or tearing during childbirth. National Childbirth Trust|
|↑10||Episiotomy. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|