'Husband Stitch': The Post-Pregnancy Procedure That's Not A Laughing Matter

Carrie Murphy's investigation has swept the internet.

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Though you may have never heard the phrase the 'husband stitch', we're pretty sure you know what it is, whether from a very inappropriate joke from your father, or maybe even your own midwife.

It's the slightly archaic/sexist/delete as appropriate practice of adding an extra stitch designed to tighten the vagina, when sewing up either a perenial tear or cut from childbirth. Just the time you want a bit of invasive vaginal surgery...

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Want to know more? A newly published investigation by Carrie Murphy for Healthline is currently sweeping Twitter for its in-depth look at this ethically dubious phenomena.

Murphy speaks to women who have had the husband stitch, with terrible consequences. One woman experienced five years of 'excruciating' pain during sex before she learnt that her own vagina had been sewn up too tight.

The US-based report suggests that, although the subject matter lacks scientific studies, the practice is far more common than we think.

Alongside medical issues that can occur as result of a husband stitch, there are obvious ethical and political problems - namely that women, at their most vulnerable, are being treated as sexual objects under medical care.

Healthline reports that Stephanie Tillman, CNM, a certified nurse midwife at the University of Illinois at Chicago said of the misogynistic practice:

The fact that there is even a practice called the husband stitch is a perfect example of the intersection of the objectification of women's bodies and healthcare. As much as we try to remove the sexualization of women from appropriate obstetric care, of course the patriarchy is going to find its way in there.

We reached out to a British midwife, who was appalled by the practice and has not come across it (bar some nervous jokes from new fathers) in her job. She said that 'women's rights in childbirth take precedence over everything', adding that there are steps women can take to avoid perenial tearing, including; pereneal massage from 34 weeks, pool births, a warm compress during birth, and birth positioning (standing, kneeling or on all fours being preferable to being on your back) .

However, the mother's genes (the levels of collagen naturally present in her skin contribute towards elasticity) and the specific birth experience are unavoidable elements that can cause tearing or a needed cut called an episiotomy.

She also suggests that women's birth partners be clued up on the proper process of the stitching, including the use of analgesia (a pain killer), and that they write a detailed and well-informed birth plan to avoid decisions being made at vulnerable moments.

We reached out to the UK's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for comment and will update accordingly.

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