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Having an Episiotomy

An episiotomy is an incision made in the tissue between a woman’s vagina and anus (perineum) to facilitate a vaginal birth.

You may need an episiotomy during your labor and delivery at a Dignity Health birth center. Our childbirth experts prioritize the safety, health, and comfort of you and your newborn. Find a Doctor and talk to them about the possibility of an episiotomy in the Bay Area.

Do I Need an Episiotomy During Childbirth?

An episiotomy may be performed for the following reasons:

  • Your baby is in an unusual position. If a baby is breech (not positioned head first) an episiotomy may be used in a vaginal delivery.
  • Your baby needs to be delivered quickly. If your baby is coming quickly, or must be delivered right away because he or she is in distress, the perineum will not have time to stretch to accommodate the passage of the baby. An episiotomy can help.
  • Your baby is large. Episiotomy can be used to facilitate the vaginal delivery of a very large baby.
  • An instrument-assisted delivery is necessary. If vacuum suction or forceps are needed, an episiotomy can be used to accommodate the instruments and facilitate birth.

You may be able to prevent tears in the skin and avoid an episiotomy by softening the tissue in your perineum area so that the vaginal opening stretches more easily during birth. Strategies for softening the perineum include perineal massages starting weeks before your due date and warm compresses and massage applied to the area during labor.

What to Expect from an Episiotomy Procedure

At Dignity Health, our doctors, nurses, certified nurse midwives, and other members of the childbirth team want to keep you as comfortable as possible. If you have not had an epidural, your doctor or midwife will numb the area with an injection of local anesthetic medicine. Once the area is numb, your doctor will make an incision. You won’t feel the cut but might feel some pressure.

Episiotomy Healing

After birth, your doctor will repair any tears in your perineum and carefully close the episiotomy incision. For the first few weeks after birth, the area may be sensitive and it may even itch as it heals. To decrease pain and help with healing you can: 

  • Apply ice packs.
  • Squirt lukewarm water on your perineum when you urinate.
  • Take medication, like Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or stool softener, as recommended.
  • Sit on a pillow or padded ring.
  • Apply pressure to the perineum during bowel movements.
  • Try a sitz bath or tub bath.

Your Dignity Health doctor or midwife will check your incision at your postpartum checkup. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about episiotomy in the Bay Area.

Dignity Health offers complete labor and delivery services, including episiotomy, in Santa Cruz and Redwood City.