One of my favourite comedians is Dara O’Briain. I love his forthright take on issues and his ability to spin off on a fantasy tangent, so imagine my joy when I was watching recently and he began talking about antenatal classes, both NCT and NHS. My ears perked up in rediness for some insightful side-swipes at the presentations he had sat through. It started well, the tone of voice we (some of us) use and the way midwives voice their opinions about doctors being over involved (true). It was during this second observation that my ears pricked up and I started shouting at the TV, something that only usually happens during One Born Every Minute. Mr O’Briain began talking about how the facilitator of the class exhorted the attendees not to let ‘the doctor near them with a knife’, it may have been scissors, or it may have been to cut them, but basically ‘Don’t let a doctor do an episiotomy’. The person went on to say that it was better to tear rather than to be cut, and it was this aspect which Dara went on to disect, using the fact that his wife is a surgeon to support his jocular comments which were ridiculing this attitude.
Tears versus cuts. Research has shown that the use of episiotomy should be restricted, for various reasons, but the one I shall highlight here is healing. As the person presenting Mr and Mrs O’Briain’s classes said, ‘a tear generally heals better than a cut’, this is especially true with muscle. During a caesarean section the surgeons tear the muscle. Why do they perpetrate this violence? If you tear a muscle it generally separates in the direction of the fibres, the fibres can then knit together better following surgery. Move from the abdomen to the perineum and the same logic must apply, with an episiotomy you just cut in a straight line, with a tear it is more likely to follow the fibres, therefore the chances are that it will heal quicker and with less pain. My final thought on this is that an episiotomy ‘may produce a larger wound to heal than would have been produced without intervention‘.
Less pain, better healing and a smaller wound? I know which option I would choose.