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

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. Three controlled trials that involved a total of 1039 women were reported on between 1922 and 2005. They each used an antiseptic skin preparation and compared perineal shaving with cutting vulval hairs. The overall quality of evidence ranged from very low (for the outcomes postpartum maternal febrile morbidity and neonatal infection) to low (for the outcomes wound infection and maternal satisfaction). 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. 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 occurred 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. One trial assessed maternal satisfaction and found no difference between groups. Other outcomes such as pain, embarrassment or discomfort during hair regrowth, were not reported. The present review found no evidence of any clinical benefit with perineal shaving. Not routinely shaving women before labour appeared safe.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is insufficient evidence to recommend perineal shaving for women on admission in labour.

Read the full abstract...

Pubic or perineal shaving is a procedure performed before birth in order to lessen the risk of infection if there is a spontaneous perineal tear or if an episiotomy is performed.


To assess the effects of routine perineal shaving before birth on maternal and neonatal outcomes, according to the best available evidence.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (12 June 2014).

Selection criteria: 

All controlled trials (including quasi-randomised) that compare perineal shaving versus no perineal shaving.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently assessed all potential studies for inclusion, assessed risk of bias and extracted the data using a predesigned form. Data were checked for accuracy.

Main results: 

Three randomised controlled trials (1039 women) published between 1922 and 2005 fulfilled the prespecified criteria. In the earliest trial, 389 women were alternately allocated to receive either skin preparation and perineal shaving or clipping of vulval hair only. In the second trial, which included 150 participants, perineal shaving was compared with the cutting of long hairs for procedures only. In the third and most recent trial, 500 women were randomly allocated to shaving of perineal area or cutting of perineal hair. The primary outcome for all three trials was maternal febrile morbidity; no differences were found (risk ratio (RR) 1.14, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.73 to 1.76). No differences were found in terms of perineal wound infection (RR 1.47, 95% CI 0.80 to 2.70) and perineal wound dehiscence (RR 0.33, 95% CI 0.01 to 8.00) in the most recent trial involving 500 women, which was the only trial to assess these outcomes. In the smallest trial, fewer women who had not been shaved had Gram-negative bacterial colonisation compared with women who had been shaved (RR 0.83, 95% CI 0.70 to 0.98). There were no instances of neonatal infection in either group in the one trial that reported this outcome. There were no differences in maternal satisfaction between groups in the larger trial reporting this outcome (mean difference (MD) 0.00, 95% CI -0.13 to 0.13). No trial reported on perineal trauma. One trial reported on side-effects and these included irritation, redness, burning and itching.

The overall quality of evidence ranged from very low (for the outcomes postpartum maternal febrile morbidity and neonatal infection) to low (for the outcome maternal satisfaction and wound infection).