Episiotomy: Evolution of a Common Obstetric Practice at a Public Hospital

Shena Dillon, David B. Nelson, Catherine Y. Spong, Donald D. McIntire, Kenneth J Leveno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective This study aimed to evaluate the rate and impact of episiotomy on maternal and newborn outcomes before and after restricted use of episiotomy. Study Design This population-based observational study used an obstetric database of all deliveries since 1990 that has been maintained with quality checks. Inclusion criteria were vaginal deliveries at ≥37 weeks. Exclusion criteria included fetal malformations, multifetal gestations, or fetal deaths known on arrival to Labor and Delivery. The primary outcomes of interest were episiotomy, perineal lacerations, and newborn outcomes. To evaluate the impact of restrictive episiotomy, data from 1990 to 1997 (35% overall episiotomy rate) were compared with data from 2010 to 2017 (2.5% overall episiotomy rate). Univariable analysis of maternal and infant outcomes were performed comparing the two-time epochs with the Pearson's Chi-squared test. Results Overall, 268,415 women met inclusion criteria and 49,089 (18.2%) had an episiotomy. The rate of episiotomy decreased from 37% of deliveries in 1990 to 2% in 2017. A total of 82,082 deliveries occurred in the 1990 to 1997 epoch and 57,183 in 2010 to 2017. Indicated use of episiotomy was associated with a significant decrease in third and fourth degree lacerations. Immediate newborn condition (5-minute Apgar's score ≤3 and umbilical artery pH <7.1) and neonatal outcomes (intraventricular hemorrhage [IVH] grade 3/4, positive culture sepsis, neonatal seizures, and neonatal demise) were not significantly different. Conclusion Selective, indicated use of episiotomy compared with routine was associated with lower rates of third/fourth-degree lacerations with no change in neonatal outcomes. The common obstetric practice of routinely performing episiotomy, presumably to prevent perineal trauma, proved untrue when analyzed over almost three decades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Perinatology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Episiotomy
  • Neonatal outcomes
  • Third-and fourth-degree lacerations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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