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Public Health
KUNR Public Radio is a proud partner in the Mountain West News Bureau, a partnership of public media stations that serve Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. The mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues of the Mountain West.

Potentially Harmful Childbirth Procedure Still Regular Practice in Some States

Aditya Romansa

During childbirth, it used to be routine to cut the vaginal wall to make room for the baby. That's no longer recommended as a standard procedure. However, a new report says it's still performed routinely in some hospitals, including in our region.

The analysis from USA Today looks at billing records from hospitals in eight states, including Nevada. In that state, the rate of the procedure known as episiotomies ranged from as low as 3.4 percent to as high as nearly 22 percent.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not recommend the routine use of the practice, and the Leapfrog Group, a non-profit hospital safety organization, recommends episiotomies not be used in more than five percenet of vaginal births.

Dr. Michael Gardner is the vice dean of clinical affairs with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Medicine.

"When I was a resident in the early 80s, we did episiotomies almost on every first-time mother, so our episiotomy rates were well over 50 percent," he says.

Gardner says research has shown that episiotomies can cause complications later in life, from chronic pelvic pain to incontinence. He aims for a five percent goal.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the use of the procedure has declined nationwide to 12 percent of vaginal births.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUER in Salt Lake City, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.