What Is the Husband Stitch?
Repairing vaginal tears (or lacerations) after childbirth is common. But a surgical procedure known anecdotally as the husband stitch is entirely different.
The husband stitch involves adding a surgical suture to tighten the opening of the vagina for a partner's sexual satisfaction. It is often done without consent. There is no scientific evidence supporting the medical necessity of this practice.
This article provides an overview of the husband stitch, offering context on the process and its lack of safety evidence.
There's no official definition of "husband stitch," as it's not an accepted medical practice. But anecdotally, it's defined as placing an extra stitch at the vaginal opening after childbirth for cosmetic or non-medically-necessary purposes to which the person may not have consented.
During some childbirth experiences, the perineal muscles might tear, or an episiotomy has been performed to widen the opening of the vagina for the baby's delivery.
These tears or lacerations are surgically repaired after delivery when people report having experienced the husband stitch procedure, sometimes without their consent. An added stitch intends to tighten the vaginal opening more than before, reportedly for the sexual benefit of the individual's partner.
To date, there haven't been many studies surveying the safety of the husband stitch procedure, including how often it's performed or how many people have been affected by the practice. Instead, information is available from firsthand accounts and outside expert medical analysis.
In general, any time surgery is performed, there are potential risks involved, including:
A surgeon will talk you through and explain these risks as part of the informed consent process.
A surgery like a husband stitch procedure without accepted evidence of a medical benefit would run the risk of being unsafe. Unsafe surgical care procedures can cause complications in up to 1 out of every 4 patients.
The husband stitch is not an accepted or widely performed medical procedure, so its practice has no clear medical significance.
The medical significance of episiotomy—the minor surgery that widens the opening of the vagina during childbirth—has changed over the years. While this practice was once routine and commonplace, experts say episiotomy rates in the United States had declined since 2006 when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommended the procedure only be performed when absolutely necessary.
When comparing routine episiotomies to medically necessary ones, experts found no immediate or long-lasting benefits regarding the severity of the laceration, pelvic floor dysfunction, or pelvic organ prolapse. However, an episiotomy may increase the risk of postpartum anal incontinence (inability to control your bowels) for some people.
What's Considered Average
It's common to experience tearing during childbirth. It's estimated that between 53% and 79% of vaginal deliveries in the United States involve some laceration.
Experts have offered professional guidelines to outline how healthcare providers can help reduce the risk of severe lacerations during childbirth, including massaging the perineum during certain parts of labor or using warm compresses while pushing.
If severe tearing does occur, surgically stitching it up will likely be needed. However, manipulating that practice to involve additional sutures for a medically unnecessary purpose is not considered average.
Patients and experts alike have offered warnings regarding a husband stitch, as it is not part of an accepted standard of care (a medically accepted guideline for treating a condition).
In addition, if the procedure is performed without the person providing permission, it violates the informed consent process. This is when a healthcare provider ensures that the individual understands the benefits and risks of the treatment options at hand—and allows treatment to move forward (or not).
The husband stitch refers to placing an extra stitch near the vaginal opening after birth for partner-pleasing purposes. Reports of this procedure being performed on patients without consent have prompted interest, as no scientific evidence or guidelines back up its practice.
While receiving appropriate stitches for vaginal tearing following childbirth is common, a medically unnecessary procedure like the husband stitch is not accepted in medical practice. If accessible, consider consulting with a patient advocate to ensure that informed consent and standards of care processes are followed during the birthing experience.