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The Husband Stitch
The scary truth behind the husband stitch and what this represents.
Preventing tearing, or repairing tears or episiotomies from birth is a key part of helping a woman recover post childbirth. At a time when post-natal care and the mother's health is paramount, an antiquated procedure known as the 'husband stitch' is still being performed on women after childbirth.
What is the 'husband stitch?'
Referred to as the 'daddy stitch' or 'husband stitch,' it's an extra stitch given to women in the repair process after a vaginal birth. The idea behind this is to tighten the vaginal opening for the purpose of the increased sexual pleasure of a male partner. Administered immediately after childbirth when a new mother is too emotionally and physically exhausted to make an informed decision, the 'husband stitch' often has painful consequences for women well after childbirth.
In today's day and age, it can be hard to fathom that this kind of practice still takes place - a practice that shifts the focus of medical care from the patient for the benefit of a third party. Some have wondered if it's an urban myth but, unfortunately for some women, the 'husband stitch' has been administered in recent years raising questions about how far we have actually come in progressing a woman's right to choose what she does with her own body.
Adjusting to motherhood
Adjusting to motherhood is a monumental change. Not only has your body changed but the time after childbirth brings up a flood of emotion, and learning as you adjust to motherhood and let your body recover. At a time when looking after yourself is just as important as looking after your new baby, some women don't even realise or know that they may have had the 'husband stitch' until painful experiences long after childbirth.
While there haven’t been scientific studies to determine exactly how many women have been affected by the 'husband stitch', the growing number of anecdotes from women act as a word of warning to be diligent and careful about the medical professionals who look after you post childbirth.
As outlined in a recent article on Healthline.com, Tamara Williams, a 27-year old mother from La Marque, Texas recalls how she felt before, during, and after realising she had been given an extra stitch. Williams found out she had been given an extra stitch following her 2015 birth when her boyfriend mentioned it. Her boyfriend mentioned he thought Williams had heard the midwife saying she would 'throw in an extra stitch for him.'
Williams had been on such a 'baby high' after the birth that she had no memory of the midwife making that statement. Now, knowing that she was given the 'husband stitch' Williams wrestled with emotional pain while dealing with continued pain during sex even after the birth of her second child.
What actually happens to a women's body in childbirth?
Going through pregnancy and a vaginal childbirth can put a strain on your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a collection of muscles, ligaments and tissues that stretch across the pelvic bones. The pelvic floor supports your pelvic organs including the womb (uterus), vagina, bladder, and bowels.
As the muscles in your pelvic floor become stretched during pregnancy and childbirth, they may weaken. This makes strengthening your pelvic floor muscles fundamental for healing your body post-childbirth. Strengthening this area of your body helps you to maintain bladder and bowel control while enhancing the feeling and senses in your vagina after childbirth. Focusing on strengthening this area with your own health as the priority will contribute to helping you heal after childbirth and enjoy a healthy sex life as you choose.
What the 'husband stitch' represents
With the emotional adjustments that come with being a new mother, and the physical changes to a women's body that occur in childbirth, another misguided part of the 'husband stitch' is the lack of understanding and knowledge of a woman's body that this procedure represents. The idea of the 'husband stitch' demonstrates the belief that some medical professionals think the strength of a woman's reproductive region, for the purpose of pleasing a sexual partner, is only conducive to a single stitch in an area that fundamentally has nothing to do with the health of a woman's pelvic floor. Further, it shows a lack of understanding of a woman's body and goes against the principles of providing medical care focused solely on a birthing mother herself.
The strength of the pelvic floor is what helps women maintain bladder and bowel control, particularly after childbirth. This is what helps a woman recover and enjoy a healthy sex life after childbirth, not surface level procedures such as the 'husband stitch' that aren't focused on the health and recovery of a new mother.
While this procedure is concerning, it serves as a reminder to be diligent when you are in the process of deciding on which medical professionals will help you through your pregnancy, childbirth, and post-natal care. From the anecdotal evidence recounting the painful experiences of the 'husband stitch,' ensuring medical professionals are just as invested in your health as you are will have a positive impact on your health years after childbirth.
Going against the surgical principles of healing for a new mother, the practice of the 'husband stitch' represents the dark undercurrent of misogyny that is perhaps still alive in the medical profession today - an undercurrent that, as we become more educated about these issues, will hopefully begin to fade.
Nicola Smith works with clients in the health and wellness industry providing copy that engages audiences and helps businesses grow. Her goal is to help people have a holistic approach to their health, and inspire others to simplify their lives, pack a suitcase, and book a ticket to somewhere they've always wanted to visit or live. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram @luggagelifestyle.