Perineal status

Perineal status refers to the state of the perineum after vaginal birth. Perineal status is categorised as intact, first degree laceration, second degree laceration, third or fourth degree laceration, episiotomy or other type of perineal laceration, rupture or tear. An episiotomy is an incision of the perineum and vagina to enlarge the vulval orifice. Data are specific to women who gave birth vaginally.

The figure shows a bar chart of the perineal status for the number per 100 women who gave birth vaginally by a range of topics for 2019. The figure also shows a line graph of topic trends from 2014 to 2019. In 2019, 42,250 women who gave birth vaginally had an intact perineum.

Almost 1 in 4 (22%) mothers had an intact perineum. Where the perineum was not intact, second degree lacerations were most common (30%), followed by first degree lacerations (21%). Only a small proportion of women had a third or fourth degree laceration (less than 3%).

Around 1 in 4 (24%) mothers had an episiotomy, noting that women could be recorded as having both an episiotomy and some degree of laceration.

Internationally, Australia’s rate of third and fourth degree lacerations was higher than the average for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in 2017 or nearest year for both non-instrumental and instrumental vaginal births:

  • 2.5 per 100 non-instrumental vaginal births compared with the OECD average of 1.4
  • 6.8 per 100 instrumental vaginal births compared with the OECD average of 5.5 (OECD 2019).

Variation between countries is likely to be affected by differences in clinical practice and reporting (ACSQHC 2018).

For related information see National Core Maternity Indicators Episiotomy Third and fourth degree tears

References

ACSQHC (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care) 2018. The Second Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation. Sydney: ACSQHC. Viewed 3 January 2018.

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) 2019. Health at a glance 2019: OECD indicators. Paris: OECD Publishing. Viewed 13 April 2021.