Who knew this one surgical cut could do this much damage? A couple is suing over what they call a "botched" episiotomy they say left the new mom with severe digestive problems and worse. Amy Herbst gave birth at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky nearly two years ago. She says her nurse-midwife, Tiffany Williams, administered an episiotomy without her consent -- and that she faces numerous reparative surgeries and may have to end her career as an opera singer.
An episiotomy is a surgical cut made at the opening of the vagina and into the perineum, the area between the vagina and the anus. It's intended to help with a difficult labor. In Herbst's case, her baby's shoulder was lodged in a way that blocked his delivery, so the midwife made an incision in the hopes that the widened passage would help. Then she sutured the cut. Herbst says she was never consulted about the episiotomy and that Herbst could have managed the difficult labor with other methods.
Following the birth of her son, Herbst has suffered flatulence and incontinence. She says sex has been painful due to the damage to her genitals. Surgeons have told her that it will likely take a few surgeries to repair the damage done to her perineum and sphincter muscle -- and that she should deliver any subsequent babies via C-section before she has that surgery. Oh yeah, and C-sections could hinder her professional career singing with the Nashville Opera. So these are some terrible choices Herbst faces.
Episiotomies used to be a routine part of delivery, but doctors have since learned it's rarely necessary. Plus, a spontaneous tear can heal in the same time, if not sooner, than an episiotomy. Now they are used in only rare cases, out of necessity.
But could an episiotomy really cause this much damage? I have to admit, I'm a little surprised. The thing is, pregnancy and delivery in and of themselves can be rough on your internal organs. I have a pretty clear idea of where this cut would go, being the owner of female genitalia myself. And you would have to cut pretty darn deep and far to damage the sphincter muscle, for example. Most likely Herbst's case was a combination of factors, and it'll be nearly impossible to tease out what caused what, exactly.
Regardless, having a baby has left one woman in terrible shape, and I do feel for her.
Do you think an episiotomy can do this much damage? Do you worry about ever having one yourself?
Image via Mark Weiss/Corbis