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Episiotomies, care of your stitches and what to expect when healing

How does an episiotomy differ from a tear?

A tear happens spontaneously as the baby stretches the vagina during birth.

An episiotomy is a cut made by a healthcare professional into the perineum and vaginal wall to make more space for your baby to be born.

Episiotomies are only done with your consent.


Why do some women have an episiotomy?

A healthcare professional will do an episiotomy if you are having an assisted (instrumental) birth.

An assisted (instrumental) birth is when forceps or a suction cup (ventouse or kiwi) are used to help your baby to be born.

Suction cups and forceps are safe and only used when necessary for you and your baby.

Assisted birth is less common in women who have had a spontaneous vaginal birth before.

An episiotomy may also be done if your baby needs to be born quickly, or if you at risk of a serious perineal tear.



How do I care for my episiotomy and reduce my chance of infection?

Episiotomies are usually repaired in the room where you gave birth to your baby.

It is important to keep the area clean.

Wash or shower at least once a day, and change sanitary pads regularly. Wash your hands both before and afterwards. This will reduce the risk of infection.

You should drink at least 2 litres of water every day and eat a healthy balanced diet (fruit, vegetables, cereals, wholemeal bread and pasta).

This will help your bowels open regularly and avoid constipation.

How long should it take for my wound to heal?

After having an episiotomy, it is normal to feel pain or soreness for 2-3 weeks after giving birth, particularly when walking or sitting.

The stitches can irritate as healing takes place but this is normal.

Passing urine can cause stinging.

The skin part of the wound usually heals within a few weeks of birth, and after that you should feel much less raw and tender.

Should my wound hurt after it has healed?

The skin part of the wound usually heals within a few weeks of birth, and after that you should feel much less raw and tender.

If you find that your wound is still open or bleeding after that time, or if your wound becomes smelly or increasingly painful at any point, you should get a healthcare professional to examine you.

If your stitches are infected  you may need some antibiotics to help it heal.

I am concerned about my stitches, who should I go to for help?

If you are concerned about your stitches, you think your wound might be infected or you think your wound has opened, you should seek medical attention.

What will happen if I have another baby?

Many women who have previously had an episiotomy go on to have a straightforward vaginal birth.

You will be able to discuss your options for future births at your follow-up appointment or early in your next pregnancy.

Your individual circumstances and preferences will always be taken into account.


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A–Z of common medical words in women’s health
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