According to a systematic review of existing studies, to appear in the May 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the surgical procedure known as an episiotomy, performed in up to 35 percent of U.S. vaginal births, usually provides no benefits.
Moreover, the researchers found that, in some cases, routine use of episiotomy causes more harm to mothers than avoiding its use. An episiotomy is an incision made at the vaginal opening during a birth. The intent, in most cases, is to mitigate the severity of the spontaneous tearing that sometimes occurs during childbirth and to facilitate proper anatomic repair. The procedure also may be performed in cases when the baby’s safety is threatened and delivery needs to take place quickly. This study addressed routine use only, not emergencies.
In routine births, women without episiotomy were found to have less pain with faster resolution, and no greater or lesser risk of wound healing complications. In addition, the evidence showed that episiotomy did not protect women against urinary or fecal incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse in the first three months to five years following delivery.
Stephanie Crayton | EurekAlert!
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