What Is a 'Husband Stitch'?

No, your doctor doesn't want or need to "throw in an extra one."

A growing number of medical professionals have been using TikTok, and it's a great way to get a little snapshot of what's on the minds of doctors and nurses, regarding both new and old trends in the medical community. One trend that seems to have hit a nerve among ob-gyns in particular—and with good reason—is something called the "husband stitch."

The most recent doctor to call this out is Danielle Jones, MD, an ob-gyn ("TikTok's 1st Gynecologist," she says in her profile) who goes by @MamaDoctorJones on the app. In the video, Dr. Jones broke down her thoughts on the husband stitch by acting out a scene in which she pretends to talk to a woman who just gave birth and her male partner.

"Great job mom! You have a teeny tiny little tear down there," Dr. Jones said in the scene, playing herself. "We call it a first-degree laceration. It should only take a couple of stitches to make it stop bleeding. You won't feel a thing because your epidural is working great. So, you just hold that baby and I'll be done in just a second."

Dr. Jones then pretended to be the new mom's male significant other, asking her to "throw an extra one in for me," referring to the stitches needed for the vaginal tear.

That's when Dr. Jones gave her opinion on the matter. At first, she said what she wants to say to the man in a sarcastic tone: "Sure, how small do you need it, sir?" But followed up with what she actually said in situations like this one: "I need to make it very clear that my job as an ob/gyn at the time of delivery is to reapproximate any tissue that was disrupted by the birth of a child," she said. "I would never, and no one ever should, alter the size of the vaginal opening at the time of a laceration repair. And that's on ethics." Dr. Jones also wrote in the comments that this isn't a joke—she's really had male partners ask this after delivery.

Dr. Jones isn't the only TikTok ob-gyn to speak out on this issue: TikTok user Dr. Jennifer Lincoln (@drjenniferlincoln) also shared a post talking about the "husband stitch" as did a labor and delivery nurse who goes by @averynrainyy on the app.

It's cringeworthy, to say the least, but instances like this regarding the "husband stitch" do seem to happen. Here's what you need to know, and what other ob-gyns think about this problematic procedure.

Why Would Someone Need Stitches After a Vaginal Birth?

If you have a vaginal delivery, it's common to experience what's known as an obstetric laceration or tear per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). This can happen on your cervix, vagina, vulva, labia, perineum (the area between your vaginal opening and anus), and pretty much any other place your baby comes into contact with when it's working its way out.

Most of these don't end up being a huge deal, according to the ACOG, but in some cases, severe tears on your perineum can cause pelvic floor injury, incontinence issues, pain, and sexual dysfunction.

Still, it's common to need a stitch or two after a vaginal delivery to repair an obstetric laceration, Christine Greves, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, told Health. "Sometimes the tissue tears and needs to be reapproximated," said Dr. Greves.

Does a 'Husband Stitch' Actually Do Anything—and Does the Procedure Really Happen?

The idea behind the "husband stitch" is to add an extra stitch in repairing the woman's vaginal laceration to try to make the vagina tighter and cause more pleasure for the partner during sex, said Dr. Greves.

"There is a notion that the delivery leaves the vagina stretched out and not able to have the capacity for sexual pleasure," Jessica Shepherd, MD, an ob/gyn in Dallas, Texas, told Health. "And also that it cannot return to the size it was prior to pregnancy. This is not true."

It should be known that "this is not routinely done," Dr. Lincoln said in her TikTok explanation. The procedure isn't something doctors are trained to do. Dr. Lincoln says in her TikTok that she can't speak for all doctors, but any doctor who does perform a "husband stitch"—either at the request of a woman or her partner or on their own—is the exception, not the norm.

Still, despite the "husband stitch" being rare, there are some patients and partners who inquire about it. "I have heard this over my years of practice from both men and women, surprisingly," said Dr. Shepherd.

Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecologist and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School, has heard it too. In Dr. Minkin's case, she recommends women do Kegel exercises instead. "I'd much rather that women do Kegels to keep up the pelvic floor, not putting in 'husband stitches,'" Dr. Minkin told Health.

If, in some situations, a woman does receive an extra stitch down there, it can cause more harm than good. "Sometimes if it is too tight, it can result in pain for the patient with intercourse when resuming that," said Dr. Greves.

Women's health expert Jennifer Wider, MD, agrees. "It can do harm," Dr. Wider told Health. "If a doctor adds unnecessary closure and tightening of the vaginal opening, it can cause serious pain for the woman."

Dr. Shepherd stressed that the whole point of getting sutures or stitches after childbirth is to "repair tears and lacerations—not to bring the vagina down in size." A "husband stitch" is not needed, even if you are worried about your vagina stretching out, said Dr. Shepherd. "The vaginal tissue has physiologic recoil and elasticity and is able to go back to size," said Dr. Shepherd.

Just a little something to consider going over with your partner before you hit the delivery room.

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  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Prevention and management of obstetric lacerations at vaginal delivery.

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