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Pregnancy terms: What is an episiotomy?

Pregnant women and their spouses usually have endless questions about their pregnancy, labour and delivery and what happens next. It’s good to know what certain terms mean before you start hearing them being thrown around, so you’re not completely lost if you’re presented with a certain situation. You may have heard of an episiotomy, but we’ll explain the nitty gritty details of what it really is.

What is episiotomy?

An episiotomy is a common process during which a surgical cut is made to your perineum. The perineum is your muscular area between the back passage and vagina. This cut is sometimes made during your delivery to help the baby to come out if your vagina is not stretching enough. Although it seems counterintuitive, the surgeon purposefully makes this cut to prevent the vagina from later tearing on its own and causing more damage.

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Reasons to have an episiotomy

Your obstetrician or midwife may offer you to have an episiotomy if he or she thinks that it will help you during childbirth. An episiotomy is not usually a regular part of the labour process and may create more harm than benefits. Most of the doctors don’t recommend having an episiotomy unless it is absolutely necessary.

You may be given an episiotomy if your doctor thinks it’s important to get your baby out as soon as possible. Doctors may also give you an episiotomy if you are tired or your baby is distressed. Most doctors use this technique only if they think it is extremely important to give an episiotomy to save the mother from suffering.

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How long will it take to heal after episiotomy?

A number of women find an episiotomy or tear gives them minimal pain, and some say it’s quite painful for at least the first month. Usually the pain subsides after five weeks. The stitches should not take more than 30 days to heal. If you feel any sign of infection then discuss it with your midwife or doctor. In case you experience that your stitches are not healing properly then discuss it with your GP or midwife to have a look. If you are not feeling good even after the period of six weeks, then ask her to look at your perineum.

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