MEDICALLY REVIEWED

We Need To Talk About The Husband Stitch: Challenging Old Narratives

Often whispered about among new mothers and perpetuated in pop culture, the “husband stitch” is a term that has been surrounded by controversy and scepticism. 

Today, it’s high time we unravel the notion of the “husband stitch”, challenge its origins, and pave a clearer path forward for medical understanding.

What is the “Husband Stitch”?

The term “husband stitch” or “daddy stitch” refers to an extra stitch added during the repair of an episiotomy or a perineal tear sustained during childbirth. This extra stitch is allegedly meant to make the vaginal opening tighter, with the notion that it would increase the sexual pleasure for the male partner. The term has been a source of concern and controversy for a number of reasons, largely due to its patriarchal and non-consensual implications.

Medical Stance and Practice of the Husband Stitch

In the realm of modern medicine, the emphasis has increasingly shifted towards evidence-based practices. 

This approach not only ensures the safety and well-being of patients but also upholds the highest standards of medical ethics and professionalism. With this foundation, it’s crucial to critically evaluate procedures, such as the “husband stitch,” which have garnered attention and scrutiny in recent times.

No Clinical Justification 

The medical literature does not support the “husband stitch” as a standard or beneficial procedure. Instead, post-partum suturing should strictly follow the guidelines for repairing perineal tears or episiotomies to prevent complications.

Potential for Harm

Excessively tight suturing can lead to complications such as painful intercourse (dyspareunia), tissue necrosis, infection, and scar tissue formation.

Functional Anatomy

The vagina is designed to expand and contract. After childbirth, pelvic floor exercises, not additional stitches, are the recommended method to improve muscle tone.

Informed Consent

Medical ethics require that patients be informed and provide consent for any medical procedure. Unwarranted additions to standard procedures without clear communication and consent violate this principle.

Autonomy and Respect

Adding stitches without clear medical need compromises a woman’s autonomy over her body and disrespects her right to evidence-based care.

Controversies and Concerns Surrounding the Husband Stitch

The main concern surrounding the husband stitch is the lack of informed consent. If such a stitch was ever placed without the explicit knowledge and agreement of the patient, it would be a clear violation of medical ethics. Moreover, the very idea propagates a harmful stereotype, suggesting that women’s bodies could be modified without their consent for the pleasure of others.

Patient Experience

Some women have reported believing they received a “husband stitch” in the past, often citing prolonged pain, discomfort during intercourse, or comments made by healthcare providers as evidence.

Debunking Associated Misconceptions

A Stitch for Pleasure?: The prevailing thought surrounding the husband stitch was the supposed “tightening” effect it could produce. However, this misinterprets both the purpose of post-partum sutures and the nuances of female anatomy2.

The “Tightening” Myth of the Husband Stitch

The belief that a post-partum “husband stitch” can enhance sexual pleasure through “tightening” the vagina is a gross misunderstanding of both the intent of post-partum sutures and the complexities of female anatomy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sutures after childbirth primarily focus on facilitating tissue healing and preventing complications.

The Imperative of Informed Consent

Informed consent is a cornerstone principle in medical ethics. For any procedure, patients should be provided with sufficient information on risks, benefits, and alternatives to make a well-informed decision. This principle is especially vital in obstetric care, where procedures impact both the mother and the child.

Beyond the Physical: The Emotional and Psychological Repercussions

The narrative surrounding the husband stitch, even if mythical in many instances, can have profound psychological effects. The importance of considering emotional and psychological impacts when discussing medical procedures is paramount, emphasising the intricate relationship between physical interventions and mental well-being.

Driving a New Narrative Forward

Countering deep-rooted misconceptions, especially within the medical community, requires a multifaceted approach. Three pivotal strategies include:

  1. Education is Key
    Knowledge is power. By offering a well-rounded understanding of post-partum procedures, we can empower women to make informed decisions. Numerous studies have shown that with proper education, the prevalence of many obstetric interventions can be reduced and lead to more positive childbirth experiences. 
  2. Open Conversations
    A transparent and open dialogue between patients and healthcare providers can dispel many misconceptions. The World Health Organization recommends respectful maternity care, which includes transparent communication and involving women in decision-making. 
  3. Championing Autonomy
    Women’s autonomy over their bodies, especially during childbirth, is paramount. It’s essential to emphasise that every woman has the right to make informed decisions about childbirth and post-partum interventions.

Reflecting on Progress

Certainly, addressing deeply rooted myths and misconceptions in the medical community, particularly surrounding women’s health, is crucial. The “husband stitch” myth, a particularly insidious narrative, unfortunately lingered for an inordinate amount of time, suggesting an extra stitch was administered post childbirth, ostensibly to augment male pleasure.

Furthermore, such myths underscore the importance of focusing on women’s health, autonomy, and the necessity for evidence-based practices. In shedding light on these issues and dispelling these myths, we are taking affirmative steps. Consequently, this encourages a future in obstetrics that is not only more inclusive and respectful but also grounded in solid scientific evidence. In continuing this dialogue, we inch closer to a paradigm where every woman’s health is prioritised and myths are relegated to the annals of history.

References

  1. Perineal pain the first year after childbirth and uptake of post-partum check-up- A Swedish cohort study – PubMed. (2019, November 1). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2019.08.004
  2. Gün, S., Doğan, B., & Özdamar, Z. (2016, September 15). Long- and short-term complications of episiotomy. PubMed Central (PMC). https://doi.org/10.4274/tjod.00087
  3. What are pelvic floor exercises? (n.d.). nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-are-pelvic-floor-exercises/
  4. Association, W. M. (2013, November 27). World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki. World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki: Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects | Research, Methods, Statistics | JAMA | JAMA Network. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2013.281053
  5. Ethical considerations of maternal-fetal surgery – PubMed. (2022, January 31). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1515/jpm-2021-0476
  6. Care in normal birth: a practical guide. Technical Working Group, World Health Organization – PubMed. (1997, June 1). PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9271979/
  7. Sterilization of Women: Ethical Issues and Considerations. (n.d.). Sterilization of Women: Ethical Issues and Considerations | ACOG. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2017/04/sterilization-of-women-ethical-issues-and-considerations
  8. Organization. Maternal and Newborn Health/Safe Motherhood Unit, W. H. (1998, January 1). Postpartum care of the mother and newborn : a practical guide : report of a technical working group. Postpartum Care of the Mother and Newborn : A Practical Guide : Report of a Technical Working Group. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/66439

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