Variations in rates of severe perineal tears and episiotomies in 20 European countries: a study based on routine national data in Euro-Peristat Project

Béatrice Blondel, Sophie Alexander, Ragnheiður I. Bjarnadóttir, Mika Gissler, Jens Langhoff-Roos, Živa Novak-Antolič, Caroline Prunet, Wei Hong Zhang, Ashna D. Hindori-Mohangoo, Jennifer Zeitlin, Gerald Haidinger, Pavlos Pavlou, Petr Velebil, Anne Marie Nybo Andersen, Luule Sakkeus, Nicholas Lack, Aris Antsaklis, István Berbik, Helga Sól Ólafsdóttir, Sheelagh BonhamMarina Cuttini, Janis Misins, Jone Jaselioniene, Yolande Wagener, Miriam Gatt, Jan Nijhuis, Kari Klungsoyr, Katarzyna Szamotulska, Henrique Barros, Mihai Horga, Jan Cap, Francisco Bolúmar, Karin Gottvall, Sylvie Berrut, Alison Macfarlane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Rates of severe perineal tears and episiotomies are indicators of obstetrical quality of care, but their use for international comparisons is complicated by difficulties with accurate ascertainment of tears and uncertainties regarding the optimal rate of episiotomies. We compared rates of severe perineal tears and episiotomies in European countries and analysed the association between these two indicators. Material and methods: We used aggregate data from national routine statistics available in the Euro-Peristat project. We compared rates of severe (third- and fourth-degree) tears and episiotomies in 2010 by mode of vaginal delivery (n = 20 countries), and investigated time trends between 2004 and 2010 (n = 9 countries). Statistical associations were assessed with Spearman's ranked correlations (rho). Results: In 2010 in all vaginal deliveries, rates of severe tears ranged from 0.1% in Romania to 4.9% in Iceland, and rates of episiotomies from 3.7% in Denmark to 75.0% in Cyprus. A negative correlation between the rates of episiotomies and severe tears was observed in all deliveries (rho = −0.66; p = 0.001), instrumental deliveries (rho = −0.67; p = 0.002) and non-instrumental deliveries (rho = −0.72; p < 0.001). However there was no relation between time trends of these two indicators (rho = 0.43; p = 0.28). Conclusions: The large variations in severe tears and episiotomies and the negative association between these indicators in 2010 show the importance of improving the assessment and reporting of tears in each country, and evaluating the impact of low episiotomy rates on the perineum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)746-754
Number of pages9
JournalActa Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2016


  • anal canal
  • episiotomy
  • Europe
  • injury
  • international comparisons
  • obstetric labor complications
  • Perineum
  • tears
  • time trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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