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What Is An Episiotomy? It's A Little Scary & A Lot Less Common

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Learning about labor and delivery comes along with many new medical terms and concepts. If childbirth is in your near future, you may be wondering what is an episiotomy and what happens if I need one? This is important information that any woman who is expecting needs to know. (But fair warning: if you are the squeamish sort, then you may want to brace yourself for this piece, because information about an episiotomy is not for the faint of heart.)

An episiotomy is an incision made to the tissue between a woman's vagina and anus during childbirth, according to the Mayo Clinic. As the Mayo Clinic further explained, the procedure was thought to help prevent vaginal tearing during childbirth. According to the Huffington Post, episiotomies were a common part of the labor and delivery process during the 1950s and 1960s, and by the 1980s, more than 60 percent of vaginal births in the United States included an episiotomy. However, the practice fell out of favor in the following years, and by 2006 The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended physicians restrict the use of episiotomies due to a lack of maternal and fetal benefit, as well as the increased risk of complications such as tearing or anal sphincter dysfunction. (Because who wants to deal with those problems any time, let alone right after childbirth?)

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However, as explained by the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, there are still instances in which an episiotomy may benefit the mother and child, such as: the prevention of tears during fast labor, the need to speed up labor during a delivery with complications, or to make room for a very large baby. If you are concerned about the true benefit of an episiotomy during your own delivery, take time to speak with your medical professionals about the relevance of the procedure to your own pregnancy.