I’m so glad that you needed/wanted this information. I’ve been learning so much this past year and especially this past pregnancy while in preparation for a homebirth and alternative methods.
Oftentimes episiotomy is encouraged by doctors for a couple of reasons that have no evidence to support (to prevent a jagged tear and/or to make room for baby to come through the vaginal opening). A straight cut is not better than a jagged one as an episiotomy can create more severe, larger tears than would occur naturally had they not been done. Evidence shows that the jagged tear will heal faster, because it tears along the natural grain of your skin and muscle fibers. Some women experience third and fourth degree tears during their second labor due to their first episiotomy tearing open.
It’s also important to note that if in the rare case the episiotomy doesn’t lead to a deeper tear, it is easier to sew up than a jagged tear.
To help prevent a tear, forced pushing should be avoided as should the positions mentioned in this entry be used for labor/delivery. Perineal massage can encourage the skin to stretch prior to baby’s delivery. Different positions that open up the pelvis and allow gravity to do its work as well as allowing your body to do the pushing with the contractions will be all that is truly necessary.
Hope this helps and feel free to ask more questions if you have them and I’ll help you find the answers!