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What the Hell is the Husband Stitch?!

Woman in labor, the husband stitch

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Question for you: how much do you know about “the husband stitch?”

If you’re feeling a little clueless, you’re not alone.

I’d heard this turn of phrase a time or two but never gave much thought to what it actually was. When I finally took the time to look it up, my stomach turned as I realized what I’d been passing off as inconsequential.

While some view this extra stitch after a labor as a means to increase male pleasure during sex, many others view it as a form of female genital mutilation, which pretty much hits the nail on the head.

While I feel ashamed that I never realized this was taking place, I’m not the only one.

In preparing for this article, I reached out to several mommy friends and groups to find out what they knew about this subject. They, too, were uninformed.

While you might think the lack of interest and awareness means this topic is of little importance, this isn’t the case. In fact, the misinformation only exhibits precisely why it’s time to bring this topic into the spotlight and answer the question: “What is a husband stitch?” and why is it so terrible?

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What is the Husband Stitch?

I’m a curious person who loves learning new things–some topics, however, I’d prefer to leave in the dark.

Stitches after labor, for example, is not one of my favorite subjects for casual conversation.

But, it’s actually one that deserves more consideration than it usually receives, especially when discussing the “husband stitch,” aka the “daddy stitch.”

What I’m about to tell you might seem like a ridiculous old wives’ tale. Sadly, it’s not.

Often during childbirth, a woman’s perineum can tear as she pushes, or when the baby makes its way through the birthing canal. In other situations, a doctor may cut the perineum, a process called an episiotomy, to make it easier for the woman to give birth without the possibility of severe tearing. 

If the perineum tears during labor, the attending physician will stitch the tear.

A husband stitch, however,  is when a medical practitioner puts in an “extra stitch” while repairing a woman’s vagina after labor and delivery. 

While this is not an approved or accepted medical procedure, it’s been occurring since the 1950s.

Why would a doctor do this, you might be asking?

Apparently, it’s to “tighten things up” so that your male partner will experience more pleasure during sex.

Yep, that’s right. Let the eye-rolling and disgust commence.

Let’s think about this for a moment: a woman’s body has just undergone one of the most intense experiences a person can face. Their vagina has torn or possibly been cut and requires stitches after labor.

The last thing on any doctor or midwife’s mind should be how good sex will feel for that woman’s partner once she’s healed up and ready to get going again!

The Husband Stitch Myth

I don’t personally agree with the husband stitch under any circumstance. 

In fact, it doesn’t even work.

In an article for WebMD, Dr. Heather Rupe, a board-certified OB/GYN, discusses the connection between the state of a woman’s vagina directly after birth and the effect a husband stitch can have on her future sex life.

Based on Rupe’s experiences and practice as an obstetrics physician, she asserts that adding in a “crown stitch,” the medically-correct term for a husband stitch, will  do nothing to increase sexual pleasure for men.

She explains that in actuality, sexual function and sensations during sex are based on the muscle tone of a woman’s pelvis…not the size of her vaginal opening.

While pushing a baby out can certainly affect that muscle tone, with time and effort from doing pelvic floor exercises and kegels, there’s no reason it can’t return to pre-delivery state.

It’s also worth noting that not only does the process NOT WORK, being stitched incorrectly after childbirth can have negative consequences for the women who undergo the experience.

Why is the Husband Stitch a Horrible Idea?

Pain, pain, and, oh, did we mention pain? That’s what many women can expect when they’re stitched incorrectly after childbirth.

Not only does the husband stitch not work the way some practitioners (or men) think it will, but when done, it can actually cause excruciating pain for women. In fact, some women aren’t even aware they’ve received this extra stitch after labor until they start experiencing pain during sex.

In an article from Healthline, one woman relays a story of how sex became extremely painful after delivering her baby.

She goes on to explain that it wasn’t until a routine PAP smear that her doctor discovered she’d been stitched incorrectly after childbirth.

While sex after an episiotomy or tear can be worrisome enough, imagine the violation of knowing that your doctor, a person you should be able to trust, performed an unorthodox procedure like this without your knowledge.

There are also other complications that can arise because of a husband stitch, including:

  • Scar tissue growth
  • Increased risk of needing an/another episiotomy in the future
  • Not being able to use tampons
  • Prolapsed uterus
  • Infection
  • Persistent bleeding

To avoid problems like these, it’s important to take charge of your treatment before and after delivery–this is where writing a birth plan comes in.

Stop the Husband Stitch
It’s important to be your own advocate when it comes to labor and delivery, including the husband stitch.

How Do You Make Sure You’re Stitched Correctly After Labor?

As stated previously, putting in a husband stitch is not a necessary medical procedure. There’s no reason a woman should ever be stitched too tightly after having a baby.

With that being said, the fear of something taking place without your knowledge or while you’re under the post-delivery cloud of drugs, excitement, and exhaustion is a terrifying thought to bear.

Expectant mothers must exercise patient empowerment and act as their own medical advocates. 

Be upfront with your medical practitioners and midwives throughout pregnancy. Explain to them what you do and do not want, along with any concerns you might have about your postpartum care.

Once you’ve made decisions about your treatment expectations throughout labor, delivery, and postpartum, put all of that information into a detailed birthing checklist that you can slip inside your hospital bag for mom.

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How to Have Conversations with Your Partner About Stitches After Labor

So, you’re having conversations with your partner about postpartum treatment, and he jokingly suggests that your doctor throw in “an extra stitch” after delivery…what do you do?

First and foremost, let’s keep one thing in mind–this is YOUR body we’re talking about, not your partner’s.

What you choose to do or not do with your vagina should be a decision all your own, especially because this particular situation can end up causing a lot of unnecessary pain.

While no ethical doctor should ever agree to a husband stitch, even if your partner asks for one, it’s crucial for you to be upfront with them about your wishes. 

If you feel concerned that you’re at risk of receiving a husband stitch, be specific with your doctor and tell them NO.

Now that you’ve handled your doctor, the question is, how do you handle your boyfriend or partner (I’m assuming that kicking them to the curb is not an option)?

Be clear about why the husband stitch is not a good idea for women and explain the severe pain it can cause. No partner who wants what’s best for you will want you to have a procedure that could cause you pain during sex.

Discuss the fact that it doesn’t even help “tighten things up” the way they think it will.

If they’re still pushing the topic and asking for extra stitches after labor, it might be worth having some frank conversations about your future.

Talking about the husband stitch
Many partners don’t even know about the possibility of the husband stitch. If you are giving birth with a partner, make sure that you discuss it with both them and your medical team.

What if You Want a Husband Stitch?

While I have a hard time fathoming how anyone could elect to have extra stitches put in after labor, I can’t speak for every woman.

Some women feel strongly about maintaining their “youthful appearance” after bringing a baby into the world. If this sounds like you, remember one thing: the husband stitch is NOT a legitimate medical procedure. 

There is no benefit to putting in the husband stitch, and any trustworthy physician will decline the request to do so.

In fact, episiotomies aren’t even standard procedure anymore except for special circumstances.

If you feel strongly about wanting this extra stitch for yourself, you can always ask your doctor about it during one of your prenatal appointments.

Just be prepared for them to politely say “no.”

Take Control of Your Post-Delivery Treatment and Advocate for Yourself

While it’s normal to find yourself asking the question, “what the hell is a husband stitch?”, we hope the information provided is enough to sway your opinion against them.

There is no medical benefit; it’s likely to cause you pain; and it won’t even help your man achieve the enhanced sexual pleasure he might be dreaming about.

All in all, extra stitches after labor are not a good idea unless they are medically necessary.

If you’re concerned there’s a risk your doctor will use the husband stitch without your permission, or you’re worried your partner might ask for one on the side, make your opinions known.

No one can do anything to your body without you giving them the right to do so. Take charge of your own physical form, and be the advocate YOU deserve.

Have you, or someone you know, had any experience with the husband stitch? 

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When I first told my mom the title of this blog, she looked at me incredulously and said, “Why undefining? Why not redefining?”

“Because motherhood is a role that’s been defined for far too many centuries,” I say. “And often not even by mothers themselves. It’s been prescribed and defined and changed and redefined so much that I don’t understand how anyone can feel authentic in their experience of it anymore. Not to co-opt another movement that’s happening right now, but time’s up. It’s time to learn to do this authentically, not according to prescription. For years, I’ve studied the history and theory of how motherhood has been defined, prescribed, turned into an institution with a set of rules. And I’m sick of it. It’s time to put that knowledge into action.”

“It’s perfect,” she replied.

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