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Rarely does a topic make me wince and enrage me at the same time. So here it goes – a little therapy rant! Recently, I was reading comments on a private Facebook Group where the topic of the ‘husband stitch’ or ‘daddy stitch’ was being discussed. For those who have never heard the term, prepare for some interesting reflection.
It was and still is (in some places around the country and world) common for a doctor to add an extra stitch to a woman’s perineal laceration (tear or episiotomy cut) after labor and birth so that her vagina will heal back to its pre-pregnancy or even virginal state of tightness – presumably for the romantic partner’s sexual pleasure. It was not uncommon for the (usually male) doctor to tell the father that he’d add an extra stitch with a ‘wink’. Patriarchal misogyny at its best.
Most of the early posts I read alleged that this stitch was a thing of the past with a ‘good riddance’ tone. Then several members came forward with relatively recent (last ten years) horror stories. In one particularly poignant post the mother recounted her long induction, a botched epidural placement and two long hours of pushing before birthing her long awaited baby. However the labor left her with a 2nd degree tear that was repaired by the attending doctor. As he repaired her, he murmured “just like new but better” loud enough to be heard by all in the room. If it was me, I would have taken my foot out of the stirrup and kicked him in the face. As if having a baby isn’t hard enough sometimes, now you are made to feel that your body has been flawed by childbirth and needs fixing.
What we all need to appreciate is that it is not the tautness of the entry into the vagina that gives pleasure unless the man’s penis is extremely small or the partner normally stops a few millimeters in. It is the strength and tone of both his and her pelvic floor that improves the experience. A woman who regularly exercises her pelvic floor can achieve a heightened state of arousal, faster stronger orgasm and reduced chance of bladder or uterine prolapse.
As for the male partner, pelvic floor exercises help improve sexual ‘staying power’ as well as help avoid urinary incontinence as he ages. And perhaps if he hadn’t been circumcised, he’d also have a greater feeling of sensory enjoyment – but don’t get me started on that emotive debate. There are pros and cons with everything – or are there?
So just to be clear, husband or daddy stitches still seem to be happening occasionally and being forewarned is being forearmed. Educate your sisters, girlfriends, parents, partners – and encourage them to do their daily pelvic floor exercises. If you are pregnant, ask your Doc or midwife his or her opinion on the topic of perineal repair. If you get an inkling of non-evidence based practices, you have the freedom to change your care provider. Let’s hope that just like routine enema, pubic shaving and episiotomy in the 1970’s, the husband stitch becomes a head-shaking memory instead of a new malpractice court case.
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