Episiotomy Definition: All You Need To Know

For most women, an episiotomy is a necessary part of childbirth. It is essential to know what it entails when it is practiced, and what some of its potential risks are.

The best episiotomy definition would be that it is an incision made between the vagina and anus. Doctors resort to this procedure when they fear there might come to a tear during delivery. It is typically done while the baby is crowning.

This procedure was once routinely done because it was seen as the best way to prevent the vagina from tearing naturally. Nowadays, an episiotomy is not an inextricable part of child delivery. Some women are able to go through childbirth without needing an episiotomy.

Some deliveries are hard and might result in rush episiotomies or natural tearing which are painful and hard to recover from. There are methods of treating pain during a prolonged healing process.

For more useful information about this process and episiotomy healing, read our concise and helpful guidelines. We will explain the procedure, its benefits, and risks.

Basics of the Procedure

To define episiotomy plainly, it entails making the vaginal opening wider to make the baby pass easier. The opening can be made wider with an incision which is usually about 2.5 to 4 cm.


It is always done under anesthesia. If you are not under sedation, you will be given local anesthesia before the incision is made.


It is done during the second stage of delivery, which means while the baby is starting to come out. The procedure can coincide with crowning.

In some cases, an episiotomy is rushed due to the baby being in danger. In such situations, the doctors tend to conduct the episiotomy to get the baby out as soon as possible.

When An Episiotomy is Recommended

This procedure is still the best solution to specific medical issues. Doctors will employ it if they spot potential complications during delivery.

Baby is Stuck

One problem which can arise is that the baby gets stuck on its way out. This usually happens at the beginning of delivery when one of the shoulders doesn’t want to come out. Because doctors can’t afford to pull the child or wait for a tear, they make the incision themselves.

Baby’s Heart Rate is Up

Another case is when the baby is in distress during childbirth. The doctors can pick up on this because of the child’s increased heart rate. This alarming sign prompts the doctor to react quickly and effectively.

Types of Episiotomy


Though the vertical incision is believed to heal quicker, it is seen as riskier. When the incision is vertical, it can easily extend to the anal area and cause further damage.


Incisions made at an angle are more common. When it is done at an angle, you do not make the risk of extending the incision. Nevertheless, it is said to cause pain and discomfort until it completely heals.


Part of the healing process is to wait for the wound to heal, and the episiotomy stitches to come out. This process might take time and can be painful.

If you are experiencing a lot of pain, have your doctor prescribe some medication. Don’t be tempted to self-medicate because everyday creams and ointments are not recommended for this type of wound.


Don’t Strain Yourself

Because the stitches are in this area, they are at risk of tearing if you strain yourself too hard. To avoid this risky business, make sure you get some probiotics or laxatives to help you relieve yourself without using too much force.

Ask Your Doctor

Though the incision itself is said to be painless, the recovery can be quite uncomfortable. It is best to diligently follow your healthcare provider’s advice on how to treat your incision during the healing process. They should provide you with helpful information on  what is an episiotomy and how to relieve pain.

Potential Downsides

An episiotomy can be an uncomfortable and painful experience for some women. It can take a long time to heal, it leaves an episiotomy scar and can cause pain for several weeks.


Some women even get infections. This happens due to the incision being in the crotch area which comes in contact with bacteria and cannot air dry properly.

Painful Intercourse

For some, the pain is persistent and causes intercourse to be painful. Women are forced to abstain from sexual activities for extended periods of time.

Nerve Damage

In some cases, the procedure is done hastily due to the nature of birth. This can result in nerve damage in the area in which the incision has been made.

Natural Tearing

Natural tearing is unpredictable, painful, and downright scary. However, you can rest assured that both smaller tears are known to heal properly over time. If the tear is mild, you will need only a few stitches to heal.

Although natural tears can be small and mild, they are avoided because they can be extremely risky. Doctors tend to opt for episiotomies because they can be controlled. The problem with natural tears is that they are uncertain and can extend quickly.

Tears can start small, but considering the pressure under which the body is during childbirth, they can easily expand in any direction. This scary thought is what made episiotomies a routine part of delivery for so long.

Some experts argue that tears are less severe than episiotomies. Research has shown that, on the whole, natural tears don’t have a tendency to expand.

Luckily for some women, the episiotomy vs tearing debate won’t be part of the experience. Some bodies can accommodate birth more easily than others. Be that as it may, it is better to rely on your doctor’s decision to go for an episiotomy rather than wait for a natural tear.


In modern times, episiotomies are done only under specific circumstances. They are performed if the doctors need to hurry the delivery for the safety of both mother and child. In other cases, they are done to avoid the risk of natural tears.

This episiotomy care is common, usually done while the baby is crowning. The incision itself is typically painless, but the recovery can cause discomfort.

It remains unresolved, whether surgical incision is better than a natural tear as experts from both sides have compelling arguments. However, natural tears still retain a higher level of risk as they can expand quickly and dangerously.


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