Following childbirth and in the case of episiotomy, certain surgeons carry out what is called “the Husband Stitch”. Regarded as mutilation and medical violence by numerous midwives, Marlène Schiappa, the Secretary of State for Gender Equality in France, created a recent tidal wave denouncing obstetric violence in front of the Senate. This has finally brought this practice into the limelight, which has been undermining women’s choice and dignity for many years.
What is “the Husband Stitch”?
During childbirth, it is possible that the surgeon or gynaecologist will have to carry out an episiotomy. This consists of making an incision to open the perineum during the birth. After the baby is born, the medical team need to sew up this incision with a few sutures. This is where ‘the Husband Stitch’ comes in, which involves adding another stitch in order to ‘tighten’ the woman’s vagina, with the single goal of making sex more pleasurable for her husband after the birth. This act, although it is not widely practiced, is often done without the woman’s consent, and is done at a time when she is not fully conscious of what is happening around her.
The term “the Husband Stitch” came into use thanks to midwife Agnes Ledig, who loudly and strongly denounced the practice, deeming it medical violence in a communication with author Isabelle Alsonso. Following Alonso’s publication, several women came forward, explaining that they had been subjected to ‘the Husband Stitch”.
As well as being done without the woman’s consent, the Husband Stitch can also be extremely painful for the woman during sex in the following months. In fact, it leads to dispareunia, or pain during penetration. Sex can become a complete nightmare, according to the women who underwent the procedure, leading to pain that made them fear future sexual intercourse.
Women are very vulnerable and powerless just after giving birth, and generally they have never even heard of the Husband Stitch. They are often not fully alert after the trials of labour, and even if the doctor explains directly to them “I am going to give you an extra stitch, and you will have the vagina of a young girl and your partner will be delighted”, it is possible that she will have no idea what he is talking about. Women often put blind faith in their gynaecologists (and rightly so, most of the time) although fortunately this practice is still not very widespread.
The Husband Stitch in fact achieves the opposite of what it set out to do: because of the pain, couples generally have less sex, which can become a big problem in their relationships.