During the birth of a child, women’s bodies are vulnerable. In the case of a vaginal birth, the tissue between the vulva and anus – the perineum – is prone to rupture for several reasons. To avoid this, doctors sometimes perform an episiotomy. The perineal area of the woman is cut open with scissors. This is a controversial procedure as it has long been argued that a natural tear can heal much more effectively and in many cases without the need of stitches. In the case of an episiotomy, on the other hand, stitching must always be performed. However, the “husband stitch” – a procedure whereby the vagina of a woman following an episiotomy is deliberately sewn closer together – has now come under scrutiny.
On health forums, many women have openly spoken about their experiences of the “husband stitch”. The procedure’s objective is to reduce the size of the vagina by means of one or two stitches so that it will later provide men greater sexual pleasure. In other words, it’s a more than questionable gift to the new daddy.
The mother is being objectified and degraded
In short, the “husband stitch” is an abusive intervention. As a general rule, the surgical alteration is carried out without the consent of the woman. The mother is objectified, degraded and patronized. Moreover, this appalling practice only testifies to the ignorance concerning female sexuality. The vagina itself won’t be made any narrower by the procedure which makes the “husband stitch” completely meaningless. Thus, sexual intercourse will feel no different to the man than it did before. Instead, it’s the woman to whom things will feel different: because for her there’s now just more pain. “Sexual intercourse caused me pain for six months… At first, it was so painful that we couldn’t even try it. I cried every time when we tried,” one user writes on mamabirth.com.
Of course, one could claim that one or the other stitch happened by accident in a busy and stressful hospital. The exception confirms the rule. But many women have spoken about how the doctor proudly proclaimed to a partner after delivery that the last stitch was especially for him.
How to defend yourself against the “husband stitch”?
n intimate experience. That’s why one should generally develop a trusting relationship with his or her doctor before the delivery and during the pregnancy. At best, one should address the issues of perineal incision and the “husband stitch” directly and clearly explain that neither procedure is desired.
On the other hand, if one thinks that they have become a victim of the surgical procedure, they should contact a trusted doctor who can help diagnose and confirm the “husband stitch”. If financial and emotional resources are available, it may be worthwhile suing the hospital. However, hospitals are generally well insured. Moreover, it is difficult to prove that such a procedure was performed against one’s will. Accordingly, the chances of success in a law suit are slim.
That’s why it’s all the more important to talk openly about the experience in order to sensitize other women and society on the issue. Sexism and a distorted image of women are serious problems in the delivery room. The “husband stitch” is a phenomenon whose roots can be found in the prevalent opinion that female bodies exist only for men – for their pleasure, for their beauty ideals and for their comfort.
At this point, let me say this: women, pregnant or not, don’t be afraid of child birth. What matters is trust in one’s doctor and of course partner. During birth what counts the most is your health and your child’s. Nothing else.
Photo by Josh Bean on Unsplash
Author: Friederike Hintze