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Episiotomy during labor in Central California

Sometimes during a vaginal birth, the baby needs a wider opening to exit the birth canal. To help ensure a quick and complication-free delivery, your doctor may widen the vaginal opening using a procedure called an episiotomy. An episiotomy is an incision in the perineum, the tissue between the vagina and anus.

At Dignity Health, skilled obstetricians may perform an episiotomy to facilitate a smooth birthing experience for both you and your baby. Find a Doctor with Dignity Health near you to discuss labor and delivery, including the possibility of an episiotomy.


Common reasons for an episiotomy

Episiotomies were once routine procedures. Now, doctors only recommend them when they reduce delivery-related complications.

Your doctor may recommend an episiotomy if:

  • Your baby is in an unusual position.
  • Your baby is large.
  • Your doctor needs to use forceps or a vacuum to facilitate birth.
  • Your baby needs to be delivered quickly.

You may be able to avoid an episiotomy. Warm compresses and massages before and during labor can soften the skin so it stretches better during delivery.


What to expect: episiotomy

This procedure is always performed after you’ve been given an epidural or other numbing medication. You won’t feel the doctor making the incision, but you might feel some pressure.

An episiotomy is usually performed during the second stage of labor after your doctor determines it is necessary for a smoother delivery.


Episiotomy care & recovery

After an episiotomy, it’s normal for the perineum area to feel sore and sensitive. This may last for the first few weeks after birth. Your care team will provide support to ease your discomfort while you’re in the hospital. 

Follow these tips to care for your incision at home:

  • Take any medications recommended by your doctor, including over-the-counter pain medication or stool softeners.
  • Use a squeeze bottle to squirt lukewarm water on your perineum after urination.
  • Always pat the area dry – do not rub.
  • Apply ice and cool packs, which we’ll provide.
  • Sit carefully on a pillow or padded ring.
  • Soak in a sitz bath with warm water after cleaning the tub.

Talk to your Dignity Health doctor about the benefits and risks of having an episiotomy.

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