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What Is A 4th Degree Episiotomy?

As you're preparing for the birth of your child, it's helpful to learn more about the terminology doctors use in the delivery room. A working knowledge of what is happening while you're delivering is better learned before you are in the stirrups. I mean, trying to ask for a medical lesson while you're pushing out a baby is less than ideal timing. Although there are more common terms — like epidural and contractions — that most women know about, there are some less common words that could pop up during your delivery. For instance, what is a fourth degree episiotomy? Because although they may not happen to everyone, you'll want to know if it happens to you.

First of all, it's helpful to know what an episiotomy is. According to Healthline, an episiotomy is a surgical cut made in the perineum during childbirth. And, for a little extra knowledge, the perineum is the muscular area between the vagina and the anus. This is done to make a larger opening for the baby to come out. According to the website for the National Childbirth Trust, an episiotomy may be necessary if there are signs of fetal distress, you have a large baby, your health depends on a speedy labor, or you are exhausted from pushing.  

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But not all episiotomies are created equal. When it comes to this procedure, there are different levels of severity. The severity of the episiotomy is measured by degrees, with first degree being the least intense and fourth degree being the maximum. A fourth degree episiotomy is "a deep and severe tear that reaches further than the muscles of your anus," as Baby Center's website reported. Additionally, the the tear may go as far as your bowel, and always needs stitches.

To understand how traumatic this can be to a mother's body, the website for The Encyclopedia Of Surgery pointed out that a fourth degree episiotomy "extends through the rectum and cuts through skin, muscle, the rectal sphincter, and anal wall." Having this level of episiotomy can cause a great deal of pain and has potential lingering issues for the mother.

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Healing from a fourth degree episiotomy can take more time and care than other levels of episiotomies. According to Baby Center, this type of tear may be painful for a month or longer, so doing all you can to recover is your best bet. In this instance, pain management and stool softeners will be your best friends.

If your childbirth leads to a fourth degree episiotomy, talk to you doctor about ideas for a healthy and quick recovery. Also, make sure to keep in touch and check in with your doctor until you feel back to normal.