Doctors often say that it is better to have nice straight line than a jagged tear. However, episiotomies are typically 2 to 4 INCHES in length, while tears are typically under an inch. I'll take the ugly <1 inch tear over a pretty 3 inch cut anyday!
Another reason women are often given to have an episiotomy is to shorten the time spent pushing. This I will admit, yes, it does shorten it... by maybe around 10 contractions which translates to only about 15 minutes. This is not going to make much of a differences in the grand scheme of things considering by this time you have already been contracting for hours (maybe even days).
Women are also told that an episiotomy can help to prevent the baby's head from pounding on the perineum. Let's think about this one though... the baby has already been making it's way through the cervix for hours which is a much more difficult journey than the vagina.
Some facilities even perform routine episiotomies! DO NOT buy into the hype, the overwhelming majority of episiotomies are completely unnecessary.
Episiotomies are NOT fun, so avoid it if you can!
Here are just some of the problems and risks associated with episiotomies:
- Can cause permanent damage to PC muscles
- Can cause lingering pain that may continue for months (and in some cases years)
- Creates scar tissue which can cause permanent numbness
- Interferes with sex life
- Due to the pressure on the perineum, the depth and length of the cut cannot always be controlled
- Can get severely infected
You do not need an episiotomy and there are ways to avoid tearing all together. Come back on Friday when I will discuss the steps you can take to avoid tearing.
(Source: Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon)