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EPISIOTOMY Doctors routinely make a small incision, called an episiotomy, to relieve some of the strain on mother and child during a vaginal delivery. The cut is supposed to speed the baby's exit, but cases of fetal distress that would require it are rare. In fact, the operation often does more harm than good. Analyzing 26 studies on the procedure conducted since 1950, researchers found that women who have episiotomies are at greater risk of injury, take longer to heal and don't have a better sex life.