Routine episiotomy is performed less frequently in many hospitals now and is not recommended as a routine procedure during childbirth by the ACOG. Despite these recommendations it is still common in many hospitals so it’s best to find out what your practitioner and hospital’s guidelines are for this procedure. An episiotomy is an incision made in the perineum, the skin between the vagina and anus. It is intended to widen the vaginal opening to facilitate birth. The risks of this include an increased risk of greater tearing, sphincter muscle dysfunction, pain during intercourse, increased risk of infection, and increased pain and healing time after delivery.
Many women are afraid to tear during delivery; however, many women who tear report significantly less pain and recovery time after a tear than women who had an episiotomy. It is also thought that a tear will heal more quickly and naturally (even if stitches are needed) because the skin will essentially graft itself back together easier than it would from a clean cut. Consider when you get a deep paper cut on your finger versus when you get a scrape or an injury that is not a clean cut; both are painful, but the latter tends to hurt less and heal more quickly than the paper cut.