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Episiotomies: Pros & Cons

The debate on the effects of episiotomies continues on; but first, what is an episiotomy? An episiotomy is used during labor to aid in vaginal delivery of the baby. During the procedure, a pair of sterile scissors is used to cut the stretching skin of the mother’s perineum downward toward the anus or sometimes downward and sideward to enlarge the vaginal opening.

Many physicians believe that the following are the pros of episiotomy:

  • Episiotomy shortens the pushing phase of labor, reduces the chance of oxygen deprivation for the baby
  • Prevents ragged perineal tears and permanent relaxation of pelvic floor
  • Maintains vaginal tightness, to promote continued sexual pleasure after healing

The following are the cons of episiotomy:

  • Increased risk of tearing through the sphincter or rectum. This can be a very long, and sometimes painful recovery process
  • Recovery is often longer with an episiotomy than with a natural tear, although this point is debatable
  • There have been no significant studies to even show that episiotomies are better for the mother

The truth is that medical intervention via episiotomy, forceps, and/or cesarean is an increasing reality in the United States. Just remember that whether or not you want to accept this “help” is up to you. These methods should ideally be used if you or your baby is in trouble during labor; however, in every day practice, these methods are used way before that point to take liability off the doctor. Do the research and make up your own mind before you’re in the delivery room. Let your physician know beforehand what you want to happen at labor.

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Related Articles

Episiotomy Recovery 
Labor & Delivery: What to Expect
Postpartum Bleeding


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