An episiotomy is an incision made in the perineum, the tissue between the vagina and anus, during a vaginal birth.
Dignity Health North State offers personal care to women in labor and delivery who need an episiotomy in Northern California. Find a Doctor to help you understand what to expect during childbirth and how you can prepare.
Why You Might Need an Episiotomy at Dignity Health North State
Most practitioners aim to avoid episiotomy when possible. Today episiotomies are relatively rare, occurring in 12 percent of vaginal births as of 2012. However, you may need one if:
- Your baby needs to be delivered quickly. In most births, the perineum gradually stretches. But if a baby must be delivered immediately, an episiotomy may be necessary.
- Your baby is large. Sometimes an episiotomy is required to deliver a large baby.
- Your baby is in the breech position. You may need an episiotomy to deliver a baby that’s in a position other than head-first.
- A vacuum- or forceps- assisted delivery is necessary.
Preventing an Episiotomy
You may be able to prevent an episiotomy by softening the tissue in your perineum so the vaginal opening stretches more easily. Ask your provider if you can try perineal massage at home in the weeks before your due date or use a warm compress and massage the perineal area during labor.
How an Episiotomy Works
If you haven’t yet received an epidural, your doctor or midwife will numb the area by injecting local anesthetics.
Once the area is numb, your provider will make a small incision, either straight down or at a 45-degree angle. You won’t feel the cut, but you may feel pressure.
After birth, your provider will carefully close the episiotomy incision and repair other tearing.
Episiotomy Healing & Care
After birth, your perineum will likely be sensitive and itch for a few weeks as it heals.
Doctors at Dignity Health North State will make your episiotomy go as smoothly as possible. At your postpartum checkup, your doctor will check your episiotomy incision to ensure it’s healing as expecting.
In the meantime, here are a few ways to decrease pain and help speed episiotomy healing:
- Squirt water on your perineum when you urinate. Using a squeeze bottle, wet the area with lukewarm water. Pat dry.
- Apply ice. Your hospital may offer you special cooling maxi pads.
- Take medication as recommended. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help. Your health care provider might recommend a stool softener.
- Cushion your seat. Some women find sitting on a pillow or padded ring helpful.
- Apply pressure to the perineum during bowel movements. Use a clean gauze pad to support your episiotomy incision as you push
- Sit in a sitz bath. Soaking the perineum in warm water can relieve pain and help with episiotomy healing.
Dignity Health North State offers comprehensive maternity care with humankindness including epidural for labor pain in Mt. Shasta, Red Bluff, and Redding, CA.