Is the “husband stitch” a medical myth? Women share their experiences

“The husband stitch” is a term that has long been whispered about in relation to a doctor providing an “extra” stitch while repairing an episiotomy or vaginal tear for the purpose of increasing male pleasure during sexual intercourse. Many women claim that the under-the-radar stitch left them in immense pain and with a lack of trust in their medical provider.

Amarah Thompson, a Minnesota resident, says she was stitched following 70 hours of labor, five of which were spent actively pushing. When she realized that something was amiss, she couldn’t even sit on a flat chair at the six-week mark, and ultimately had a vaginal-tear revision. Thompson has since filed a state board complaint against her doctor and says she now suffers from hospital anxiety. While there are no studies on how many people actually received this stitch, the practice of performing episiotomies regularly began in the 1920s, as doctors believed that it would be easier to repair and cause less trauma and damage overall than a natural vaginal tear. It wasn’t until further research was done that the tide shifted.

Board-certified OBGYNs emphasize that the husband stitch is “not a medical thing,” and while it might be based on the “strong misogynistic histories” of obstetrics and gynecology, it is not part of any medical teaching or textbooks. Dawn Thompson, a former doula and CEO of Birthify, a virtual support service for pregnant people, calls the practice “100% driven by paternalism and misogyny,” as it prioritizes male pleasure over a woman’s comfort. She also believes there’s a connection between the husband stitch and the rates of modern maternal care’s use of the episiotomy.

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