Episiotomy and severe perineal trauma among Eastern African immigrant women giving birth in public maternity care: A population based study in Victoria, Australia

Published:November 23, 2016DOI:



      Eastern African immigrants from countries affected by female genital mutilation have resettled in many developed countries, including Australia. Although possibly at risk of perineal trauma and episiotomy, research investigating their perineal status post-migration is sparse.


      To investigate variations in episiotomy use and incidence of severe perineal tear for women born in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan compared with Australian-born women.


      A population-based study of 203,206 Australian-born and 3502 Eastern African immigrant women admitted as public patients, with singleton vaginal births between 1999 and 2007, was conducted using the Victorian Perinatal Data Collection. Descriptive and multivariable logistic regression analysis adjusting for confounders selected a priori, were performed to compute incidence and adjusted odds ratios.


      Overall, 30.5% Eastern African immigrants had episiotomy compared to 17.2% Australian-born women. Severe perineal trauma occurred in 2.1% of Eastern African immigrants and 1.6% of Australian-born women. While the odds of severe perineal trauma was significantly elevated only during non-instrumental vaginal births for Eastern African immigrants {ORadj1.56 95%CI(1.17, 2.12)}; that of episiotomy was increased during both non-instrumental {ORadj4.47 95%CI(4.10, 4.88)} and instrumental {ORadj2.51 95%CI(1.91, 3.29)} vaginal births.


      Overall, Eastern African immigrant women experienced elevated odds of episiotomy and severe perineal tear. Health care providers need to be mindful of the increased risk of severe perineal tear in these women and enhance efforts in identification and treatment of severe perineal trauma to minimise associated short and long term morbidity. Strategies to reduce unneeded episiotomy and ways of enhancing perineal safety are also needed.


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