Though you may have heard the term “episiotomy” tossed around at the hospital or with other expectant mothers, the details of this procedure are not commonly discussed, and therefore, you may not be aware of what an episiotomy is and whether or not it is still practiced in modern medicine.
An episiotomy is an incision made in the tissue between the vaginal opening and anus. This procedure is necessary when it is assumed that extensive vaginal tearing will take place during labor. Though this is not an ordinary occurrence, there is a high risk for vaginal tearing if the baby has an abnormal heartbeat during delivery, or if the baby’s shoulder becomes stuck on the pelvic bone. Both of these scenarios would most likely result in an episiotomy, as it is the best way to safely prevent extensive vaginal tearing. However, this procedure does not always look exactly the same. There are two kinds of episiotomies: median (also known as midline) and mediolateral. The median or midline incision is done vertically, which is usually easier to repair but has a higher risk of extending to the anal region. On the other hand, the mediolateral incision is done at an angle and offers more protection from extended tearing, though it is more painful and does not heal quite as fast.
There are a couple of risks to be aware of when it comes to episiotomies. It is important to note that recovery will be uncomfortable, and there is also potential for infection, as is present with any surgery. As mentioned earlier, there is also a certain amount of risk in extended vaginal tearing; however, if an episiotomy is performed, it is typically due to the fact that the labor conditions are putting the mother at high risk for vaginal tearing naturally. Thus, the episiotomy seems the best chance to prevent extensive natural tearing, which is more dangerous and more difficult to manage.
The healing process for an episiotomy, though uncomfortable, is fairly simple. Any stitches used will typically absorb on their own. Doctors will usually recommend some form of pain reliever and/or stool softener. When following this regimen, recovering from an episiotomy should go smoothly. If you have any further questions about healing from an episiotomy procedure or notice any unusual fluid/pus around the incision, please contact your healthcare provider immediately.
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