Cochrane Summaries

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Routinely shaving women in the area around the vagina on admission to hospital in labour

Basevi V, Lavender T
Published Online: 
15 April 2009

Women may have their pubic hairs shaved with a razor (perineal shaving) when they are admitted to hospital to give childbirth. This is done in the belief that shaving reduces the risk of infection if the perineum tears or a episiotomy is performed and that it makes suturing easier and helps with instrumental deliveries. Shaving is a routine procedure in some countries. The present review found no evidence of any clinical benefit with perineal shaving. Not routinely shaving women before labour appeared safe. Three controlled trials that involved a total of 1039 women were reported on between 1922 and 2005. They each used antiseptic skin preparation and compared perineal shaving with cutting vulval hairs. When the findings of the trials were combined, no differences were found, with and without shaving, on the number of mothers who experiencing high body temperatures after the birth (maternal febrile morbidity). One trial also looked at perineal wound infection, the incidence of open wounds and maternal satisfaction immediately after a perineal repair had been completed and found no difference between groups. Most of the side-effects attributable to shaving occur later, as described by one of the trials. These included irritation, redness, multiple superficial scratches from the razor and burning and itching of the vulva. No trial assessed the views of the women about shaving, such as pain, embarrassment or discomfort during hair regrowth, to determine the most appropriate form of care in terms of health gain.