Well Rounded Birth Prep

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Myth-conceptions about Episiotomy,The Unkindest Cut.

This MyOBsaidWHAT.com entry particularly hit a nerve with me.

“I’m almost done, just putting in an extra stitch. It will make your husband really happy.” -OB during tear repair.

Where to even begin with how wrong this is. *sigh* You can read the comments at the bottom of the post to read the thoughts of childbirth educators, doulas, midwives, and other birth advocates. A great read on the facts and mythology regarding episiotomies is Chapter 14 from Henci Goer's Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities, which can be read in its entirety here.

The assault on the woman's genital integrity and bodily autonomy by this OB's use of the "husband stitch" is so bad that it would require a whole other post. The mother whose original post that was did NOT consent to that procedure, and there's no way that an "extra" stitch would help her heal better in any way. If anything, her recovery would be prolonged, possibly by many months. That's a rant for another day.

At any rate, I hear this one a lot. It makes me really sad.

Often, my clients in my childbirth classes (or private in-home classes) will bring to class their mother, sister, or best friend who they want to be present at the birth. With this example, we will call the mom-to-be Ashlee and her mother (the grandmother-to-be) Jane (not their real names). As part of what I regularly cover in my classes, I explained to mom-to-be Ashlee that episiotomies are only medically necessary about 5% (or less) of the time and that most of the time, they amount to nothing more than genital mutilation. We discussed how a tear will often be far WORSE and deeper with an episiotomy, and how recovery from an episiotomy has been found in studies to be more painful and difficult to heal than after a natural tear. I also shared with them the most common (totally preventable) causes of tearing and how to prevent/avoid a tear. Grandma-to-be Jane nearly teared up after hearing this, sharing a bit of her birth story. She was glad that chose to have unmedicated births with her (now-grown) children and encouraged her daughters to have an unmedicated birth, if possible. She said that she treasured her memories of her own births--until she found out that what happened to her didn't have to be that way.

She said that everything went great up until the time that her OB cut a deep episiotomy on her, then as he stitched her up, he told her he was putting in "one more stitch for her husband." Jane said, "At the time, I thought that was normal, but now I think I should have popped him one!" I told her that I was sorry that she had that experience. She replied that she was glad she found out the truth so that hopefully her daughter wouldn't have to go through an unnecessary episiotomy and subsequent painful recovery.

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