For years, some doctors believed that an episiotomy, an incision to enlarge the vaginal opening during childbirth, would prevent spontaneous tearing that would be harder to repair. They also believed the procedure would help women avoid incontinence and improve their sex lives.
It turns out those beliefs were myths.
A new review of 26 research studies shows that episiotomies are linked with a higher risk of injury, more trouble healing and more pain.
Episiotomies also had no effect on incontinence, pelvic floor strength or sexual function. Women who had the procedure waited longer to resume sex after childbirth. And their first post-birth intercourse caused them more pain.
An episiotomy is usually a small cut—deeper than the width of a large metal paperclip and about as long. Spontaneous tears often are smaller and don’t need stitches.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #06.
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