Objective: Our purpose was to examine the association between maternal vaginal and perineal morbidity and episiotomy performed at operative vaginal delivery.
Study design: We obtained data from 2041 consecutive operative vaginal deliveries and compared yearly rates of episiotomy, lacerations, and potential confounders with linear regression and stratified analyses.
Results: Between 1984 and 1994 the use of episiotomy for operative vaginal deliveries fell significantly (93.4% to 35.7%, R2 = 0.85, p = 0.0001). This change was associated with a rise in the rate of vaginal lacerations (16.1% to 40.0%, R2 = 0.80, p = 0.0002), a decrease in the rate of fourth-degree lacerations (12.2% to 5.4%, R2 = 0.62, p = 0.004), but no significant change in the rate of third-degree lacerations. These associations held in separate analyses stratified by parity and type of instrument used for delivery. The prevalence of other previously reported risks for perineal morbidity did not change during the study period.
Conclusion: At our institution a statistically and clinically significant reduction in the use of episiotomy for operative vaginal deliveries was not associated with a change in the rate of third-degree lacerations but was associated with an increase in the rate of vaginal lacerations and a decrease in the rate of fourth-degree lacerations.