What You Need to Know About Episiotomies

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Image via phallin/Flickr

“1,2,3….PUSH!!!”

My midwife shouted the numbers out loud as my husband held my hand, straining next to me as I tried to push our baby out. I was nearing hour two of pushing and was completely exhausted and emotionally drained. 

“Can you see her yet?” I gasped between contractions. 

My husband and the midwife exchanged a look. 

“Just give it all you can on this next one, ok?” she replied, refusing to meet my eyes.

With the next push, I was able to advance our daughter's head out…where she proceeded to get stuck. 

With the next push, I was able to advance our daughter's head out…where she proceeded to get stuck. 

For half an hour. 

When my anguished cries threatened to drive my anxious, waiting family to break down the hospital doors, my midwife's expression turned resolute. “Chaunie, we're going to cut,” she said, holding out her hand for the scalpel. 

By this point, I was completely out of my mind with pain and exhaustion and in my delirium, I screamed at her. “No!” I shouted. “Please, do not cut me, I am begging you!” 

With no time to spare for even a local to numb my pain, she performed an episiotomy that I literally did not even feel and seconds later, I was holding my daughter. 

I found out later that my midwife's episiotomy rate was less than 0.3% in her pregnant patients. 

Needless to say, sometimes episiotomies are necessary. Although we may hear horror stories about doctors in a hurry “speeding up” the process with a little slice and dice, I am here to say, as both a woman who received an episiotomy and as a labor and delivery nurse, that it's not always the case. 

According to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, in 2009 the episiotomy rate was less than 6%, which is a huge decrease from the almost 70% rate it was back in the late 1990's. 

Episiotomies are not routine procedures anymore; studies have shown that they do not heal better than tears and that they can have serious complications. That being said, however, as my case clearly demonstrated even the most cautious of care providers do use them as a last resort. 

If you are concerned about receiving an episiotomy during labor, definitely talk to your care provider ahead of time — make sure it's not common practice for them and that they will use every other means before putting you under the knife. 

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What do you think? Are episiotomies ever necessary? 

What do you think?

What You Need to Know About Episiotomies

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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9 comments

  1. Ashley says:

    I pushed for 3 hours and tore naturally, no epidural. I feel like I healed fine and have no problems as a result. The stitched stung a lot, but they would have stitched me if they cut also. I was so against receiving an episiotomy and I’m glad I let it happen naturally.

  2. Rachel says:

    I just gave birth five days ago and actually just found out from my husband yesterday that I got an episiotomy! While I was pushing, between the other types of discomfort and focusing on pushing hard enough to get my son out, I was completely unaware of what my doctor was even doing. For any first-time moms-to-be, whether or not you’ll have to get an episiotomy will be the furthest thing from your mind when you’re in the midst of it. Don’t let it become something to worry about! When all is said and done, you’ll have your precious little baby that will have made it all worth it. 🙂

  3. tangled says:

    wow
    hopefully I don’t have to go through that….

  4. I managed to go without an epidural, but did get an episiotomy. It was one of those things we never talked about, and I regret that. All I recall is the OB/GYN saying I was going to tear and started cutting. I yelled, because it hurt! They did numb me at that point, but cut me anyway.

    I hated it. The scarring get irritated all the time, and my son is 20 months old!

  5. Cheryl says:

    When it comes time, you couldn’t care less about fear of the pain.

  6. Diana says:

    Ouch!…. I’m really scare and hopefully I don’t have to go through that….

  7. Noel says:

    I delivered my first in a hospital and was very lucky not to have an episiotomy. Unfortunately I still had a small tear that had to be sewn up and it did heal within 4 weeks. I am fixing to have baby number 2 and I am terrified that i may have to get an episiotomy with this one since I tore last time. And it was only 9 months ago that I gave birth to my first and my second is due in January.

  8. Phammom says:

    Yeah don’t want one but in your situation I would be ok with it.

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