Complications and Long-Term Effects of Episiotomies & Tearing

Complications and Long-Term Effects of Episiotomies & Tearing

by / Wednesday, 24 February 2021 / Published in Birth Trauma, Medical Malpractice
Pregnant woman in hospital gown with hand on stomach.

Giving birth is an extremely difficult process for both the baby and the mother. And sometimes babies need a little extra help coming into the world. Sometimes, this means performing an episiotomy on the mother or the mother’s perineum tearing naturally to create extra room for the child as they leave their mother’s body. Natural perineal tearing is an extremely common occurrence, particularly among first-time mothers. Sometimes an episiotomy will be performed preemptively to prevent severe natural tears from occurring.

When are Episiotomies Recommended?

It wasn’t very long ago that episiotomies were a completely standard part of the delivery process, even in cases when there were no unusual circumstances or complications. It had been believed that an episiotomy would make childbirth easier and an episiotomy incision would have an easier time healing than a natural tear would, which is why this used to be so common. However, subsequent research later found that this isn’t always the case and beginning in 2006, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists began advising against routine episiotomies.

Episiotomies are now something that’s recommended if certain complications come up during delivery and it’s important to help the baby be delivered as quickly as possible. For example, if shoulder dystocia has occurred, meaning the baby’s shoulder has gotten stuck behind the pelvic bone, an episiotomy may be recommended to make it easier for the baby to get out without injury. An episiotomy might also be recommended if birth-assisting tools like forceps or vacuum suction are needed or if the baby shows signs of being in distress. An episiotomy might also be recommended if the baby’s head is large, if the baby is in a breech position, or if delivery progresses too quickly for the perineum to stretch naturally.

The Risks of Episiotomies & Natural Tearing

As is the case for many other medical procedures, episiotomies come with a risk for potential complications, which is why they are no longer in routine use. Not only is there a risk of infection at the incision site, other potential risks include injuries to the urethra, incontinence, chronic pain, and sexual dysfunction.

While episiotomies have their risks, there can also be medical risks if tearing occurs naturally. Women very commonly need stitches to repair tearing, severe tearing can be extremely painful initially and result in long-term problems like incontinence, pain during sexual intercourse, and ongoing pain.

With the potential complications associated with both episiotomies and natural tearing, it’s extremely important for doctors to act appropriately to a situation. If a doctor knows that severe tearing is likely to occur in a given situation but doesn’t perform an episiotomy instead, there’s a chance it might be considered medical negligence. It could also be considered negligence if an episiotomy is performed unnecessarily.

Contact a Birth Trauma Lawyer

If you have suffered from an episiotomy or tearing that you believe could have been prevented, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a birth trauma lawyer. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’re experienced in handling cases related to birth trauma and medical malpractice in the state of Michigan. Contact us today for help with your case.

Image: iStock / blueshot

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