The New York Times reported on the current state of a procedure called episiotomy. It is an incision made between the vagina and the anus to help control vaginal tearing during birth. It used to be a common procedure, but now it’s use isn’t recommended. Yet it is still common in some hospitals to make the “snip”, sometimes without the mother’s consent.
Large babies and long labor times put too much pressure on the vagina and can cause it to tear. These tears take a long time to heal and can become infected. The theory behind the procedure is that if you pre-tear the tissue with a clean incision, you can reduce the chances of additional tearing and have a faster delivery.
If a baby is experiencing shoulder dystocia or is stuck in the canal, this can save a baby’s life. One of the danger signs during birth is a dropping fetal heart rate. If doctors detect this, they may perform the procedure to hasten the baby’s delivery and save its life.
However, some doctors still do the procedure as a matter of course, despite the dangers and long recovery time. A study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine found that older obstetricians are more likely to make the cut than ones with later training. Considering that this procedure used to be done in over 60% of births in the U.S., that’s not surprising. Today, the rate is about 8%.