An episiotomy is a cut made to widen the opening of the
vagina. It is done toward the end of labor to keep the vaginal tissues from
tearing as the baby is born. Sometimes an episiotomy can also help the
doctor to deliver the baby quickly if the baby is in distress.
Who is a candidate for the procedure?
Usually, the doctor or midwife attending the birth decides
whether to do an episiotomy. An episiotomy may be done when:
the vagina cannot stretch enough to allow the baby to pass through
a baby is thought to be large, for example, more than 9 pounds
a forceps or vacuum must be used to help in the birth
monitors show that the baby is in distress or not getting enough
oxygen and needs to be born quickly
the vaginal opening starts to tear as the baby's head appears
the baby's shoulder is blocking the birth canal
How is the procedure performed?
As the crown of the baby's head pushes through the
vaginal opening, an anesthetic is injected in the mother's perineum to numb it.
The perineum is the skin area between the vagina and anus. A cut 2 to
3 inches long is made there. After the baby is born and the placenta is
delivered, the cut is stitched up.