An episiotomy is a procedure that widens the vaginal opening during childbirth. During an episiotomy, an incision is made in the perineum, the area between the vaginal opening and the anus. An episiotomy may be performed if the fetus's head is too big for the vaginal opening; the fetus is in a breech position; the mother's urethra is beginning to tear; or the labor is stressful for the fetus and needs to be cut short.

To enlarge the vaginal opening, a small incision is made in the perineum. The incision is either a midline incision, which is a straight, vertical cut, or a mediolateral incision, which is a cut made at an angle. The midline incision takes less time to heal; the mediolateral incision is less likely to cause a tear that extends to the anus. After the baby is delivered, the incision is stitched closed.

Risks of Episiotomy

The following risks are associated with episiotomy:

  • Torn incision during delivery
  • Increased blood loss
  • Infection
  • Painful sex for several months

Because of their inherent risks, episiotomies are not performed as often as they once were. In many cases, vaginal births are successful without them.

Additional Resources