Alternatives to episiotomy
Several techniques can make episiotomy unnecessary. “The perineum is perfectly equipped for childbirth,” says Susan Moray, a Portland, Ore., midwife and childbirth educator. Still, she adds, it may need some assistance during labor. As the baby’s head starts pressing on the perineum, placing hot compresses on the area can help the latter stretch. When the head crowns, gently massaging the area with oil can further help. (Prenatal perineal massage remains controversial, as some midwives and doctors believe it can weaken the tissue.) The doctor or midwife also can support the perineum to keep it from ripping and cup the baby’s head to ease the chin out.
Some say the biggest payoff of giving birth without an incision may be in the recovery. Any small tears heal quickly, Moray says, adding, “I don’t have women sitting on those donuts.” On the other hand, just as getting an epidural when you’d hoped for natural childbirth isn’t the end of the world, neither is having an unwanted episiotomy. Just focus on your new baby, not on how he or she got here.