What is episiotomy?

An episiotomy is a surgical procedure that involves incising the skin of the perineum. This is the tissue of your pelvic region that occurs between the anus and the vagina. Doctors sometimes perform the surgery to assist with a difficult childbirth. However, as the Mayo Clinic explains, it is no longer as commonplace as it once was. 

If you deliver your baby vaginally, chances are good that you will not require an episiotomy. In the event that your doctor deems it necessary or beneficial, he or she should explain the risks and benefits to you and allow you to make your own decision. Here are some valuable things to know about episiotomy. 

When is episiotomy necessary? 

During the process of labor and childbirth, the tissues of the vagina naturally stretch to allow you to deliver the baby. However, sometimes an emergency situation arises that requires delivery of the baby before the vaginal tissues have had sufficient time to stretch out naturally. For example, the baby’s heartbeat may be irregular, or the shoulder may become wedged underneath your pelvic bone. 

These situations may indicate episiotomy to allow enough room to deliver the baby right away. If you need assistance to deliver the baby via a vacuum device or forceps, an episiotomy may also be necessary for proper placement of the operative equipment. 

What are the risks? 

As with other surgical procedures, a postoperative infection may arise from an episiotomy. Some women experience fecal incontinence due to tearing that extends from the perineum into the anal sphincter as a result of the procedure. Other possible complications include dyspareunia, which is pain during intercourse, and an uncomfortable recovery.