In 2005, Sarah Harkins, who shared her story with Healthline, went through a traumatic induction of labor. What made matters worse is that her family doctor was apparently telling her husband that they were going to add another stitch to tighten the opening of her vagina. This extra stitch is called the husband stitch.
Medical experts have confirmed that repairing the perineum for a woman after childbirth is necessary. But adding an extra stitch is not. It can cause unnecessary pain and discomfort.
This medical procedure has gained some attention upon the release of the Husband Stitch, by Carmen Maria Machado. It may be an example of bad medical practice, but the husband stitch is indeed real.
There isn’t any proof that this procedure actually benefits the male partner. But thankfully women have come forward to give warnings and insights.
Angela Sanford, a 36-year-old mom living in Fort Mill, South Carolina, tells Healthline that she got a husband stitch in 2008 when she gave birth. She only found out five years later that she got the husband stitch. She endured painful sexual intercourse for those five years.
She found this out while getting a pap smear with a nurse. The nurse told Sanford that she felt that the hospital who managed her first birth stitched her up too tight.
The husband stitch is more common when episiotomies were done during childbirth. An episiotomy is a surgical procedure where a cut is made on the perineum.
People in the 1950’s and 1960’s were taught that getting an episiotomy was good for the woman. They believed that it made a cleaner cut that would be easy to repair. They also thought that during the repair, they could even create a better perineum by tightening things.
Statistics indicate that by 1983, over 60 percent of women had experienced an episiotomy.
To further support the research from the 1980’s, a systematic review was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association regarding the routine episiotomy. The review found no benefit to this procedure.
With that said, new guidelines were implemented in the early 2000’s to reduce the number of episiotomies. In 2012, 12 percent of births involved episiotomies. That number is down 33 percent since 2002. Episiotomies can still occur, but it depends on the situation and the training and preference of the woman’s obstetric provider.