An episiotomy — a surgical incision in the perineum during childbirth — was once a standard delivery practice. Now, practitioners recognize that it's not necessary for most births. In fact, allowing mom to tear naturally can result in less blood loss, pain, and risk of infection. The fact that episiotomies aren't routine, however, doesn't mean they don't happen. In certain scenarios, such as fetal distress, they're practically unavoidable. In the interest of avoiding surprises, I'm sharing the things I wasn't prepared for when I had an episiotomy.
Having an episiotomy was never part of my plan. I'd done the research, and found out that it can actually cause tearing (all the way to the rectum which is, you know, ouch!) and lead to incontinence. No thanks. It was something I wanted to avoid, so I wrote in my birth plan that I preferred to tear naturally. My team of midwives was totally on board and gave me some tips for avoiding tearing. However, you know what they say about the best laid plans...
When it was time for me to start pushing, my nurse noticed that my daughter's heart rate kept dropping. She and the midwife suspected a compound presentation (baby girl had her hand next to her cheek). It was time to call in the head honcho obstetrician. (Like, the one with her picture on the wall). All of a sudden, there were 12 people in the room where before there had only been three. The doc took one look at me and determined that the baby needed to come out now-ish. It was all so fast, but in the end, I had a vacuum-assisted birth and, you guessed it, an episiotomy.
Because I assumed I'd be able to follow my birth plan (silly rabbit), I was unprepared for all that a surgical cut to my vagina would entail. Here's what surprised me most: