Particularly used during vaginal births, an episiotomy is a surgical incision (cut) made in the perineum – the area between the vagina and the anus – to enlarge the vaginal opening of the mother just before a baby is born.
The incision is either carried out after administering a local anesthesia to numb the tissues, or at the height of a contraction so that the pain cannot be felt.
Why is it done?
Usually performed during the second stage of labor, episiotomies help speed deliveries and prevent any serious tears to the mother’s vagina. It is also believed that episiotomy protects the pelvic muscles and helps the woman maintain normal function of the muscles later in life.
Quite uncomfortable initially, the incision normally heals in about a week or ten days.
- Ice packs are believed to be helpful in relieving pain in the first 24 hours, followed by hot soaks that speed up the healing process.
• Change pads frequently and keep the area around the stitches dry.
• Normal post-partum constipation experienced at this time can prove very painful for the stitches while passing stool. Take stool softeners and eat lots of fiber to prevent constipation.
• Take pain killers and other anti-inflammatory medicines to help relieve pain.
It’s important to note that while in some women the discomfort might last a few weeks after delivery it’s advisable to go in for a checkup if the pain doesn’t subside even a month after birth.
What are the risks?
Like any other surgical procedure, an episiotomy also carries a risk of blood loss, problem in wound healing and infection.
To minimize the risk of increased blood loss, an episiotomy is stitched as soon as possible.
In case the episiotomy doesn’t heal and the incision becomes infectious the sutures are removed to drain the wound and help it dry completely. Later the perineum is stitched again.
The first signs of infection propping in the incision include a raised body temperature and continuous pain and discomfort in the area of stitches.