When a woman gives birth, stitches are sometimes needed. Some doctors have given them an extra stitch to the vagina to make it ‘tighter’ for their male partners – in exchange for unwarranted consequences.
After almost five years of struggling with infertility, Stefani was finally pregnant with her first child. Despite her pregnancy being filled with preterm labours and bed rest after 18 weeks, she gave birth to a baby girl.
After the doctor on call explained the ins and outs of her delivery, he then told her he added an extra stitch for her husband.
“At the time, I didn’t know what that meant,” says Stefani. “It was a snarky kind of joke.”
“He thought it was humorous.”
When she started experiencing unexplained and undiagnosed pain during sex, Stefani decided to go online to find the answer to her discomfort. She then stumbled on a message board and was linked to an article that explained everything – Stefani was given the husband stitch.
A husband stitch, also known as a “daddy stitch”, husband’s knot and vaginal tuck, is an extra stitch given while repairing a natural tear or a cut from an episiotomy after vaginal birth, supposedly to tighten the vagina to increase sexual pleasure for their male partner.
It is not an official medical procedure and is unethical.
“I didn’t even know that he had done an episiotomy until he had done the husband stitch and was finished with everything,” says Stefani. “It was over before I could even say anything.
“It was so bad.”
While no scientific studies show how many women have been affected or a method for evaluating how common it is in the world of obstetrics, many women have shared their experiences online and offline.
“This [husband stitch] was still popular when I was a resident back in the 1970s,” says OB-GYN Dr Mary Jane Minkin. “Some OB-GYNs felt that to repair an episiotomy, one should put an extra tight stitch to make the husband ‘happy’ by keeping the vagina tight.
“The problem is that it may be so tight that the woman will be so uncomfortable that she cannot have sex.”
The scar tissue left after the stitch was stiff and rigid, and Stefani was in so much pain that even wearing a tampon was uncomfortable for her, let alone having intercourse. Coupled with the exhaustion from trying to have kids, she was only having sex with her husband 2-3 times a year at most.
“It was ten years before I was having sex that didn’t hurt, and that’s a whole impact on your marriage in and of itself,” says Stefani. “It was this little, tiny stupid thing, and it has impacted so many parts of our lives.
While women note some degree of “pelvic relaxation” after having a baby, it doesn’t mean any extra stitch is required.
“When a woman pushes out a seven, eight, nine-pound baby, there’s going to be some changes in her vaginal canal,” says relationships and sex therapist Dr Deb Laino. “But based on flexibility and just the healing aspect of the muscles and the pelvic floor, it can go back fairly normal.