Knowledge, attitude and experience of episiotomy practice among obstetricians and midwives: a cross-sectional study from China

BMJ Open. 2021 Apr 12;11(4):e043596. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-043596.


Objective: Episiotomy is still performed widely by obstetricians and midwives in some Chinese maternity units, but the reasons are unknown. This study aims to determine the knowledge, attitude and experience towards the practice of episiotomy among obstetricians and midwives in China's public hospitals and consider strategies to reduce its practice.

Methods: A cross-sectional web survey using a self-administered questionnaire was conducted among obstetricians and midwives in 90 public hospitals in Henan Province, China.

Results: 900 (82.21%) participants completed the questionnaire. Average knowledge level (4.15, SD=1.10) on complications and overuse was identified among participants. Episiotomy was performed more frequently in secondary hospitals than in tertiary hospitals (p<0.05). Senior clinicians were more likely to perform episiotomy than younger ones (p<0.05). Almost half of the clinicians (42.11%) considered the current rate of episiotomy (45%) to be right or too low. The most common reason for performing episiotomy identified by obstetricians (83.94%) and midwives (79.69%) was to reduce third-degree or fourth-degree perineal laceration. Both obstetricians (80.29%) and midwives (82.57%) agreed that the most significant obstacle to reducing the rate of episiotomy was lack of training on reducing perineal tears.

Conclusion: In sum, episiotomy was driven by previous training, practitioners' experience and local norms rather than the latest medical evidence. Clinicians in secondary hospitals and senior clinicians are key training targets. It is urgent to improve current clinical policies and surgical procedure guidelines for obstetricians and midwives regarding episiotomy.

Keywords: education & training (see medical education & training); maternal medicine; perinatology; urogynaecology.