Women are still subjected to practices violating their autonomy and bodies when seeking medical treatment. Sometimes, women get procedures against their wishes to serve their male partners, such as the husband stitch. In other instances, when unconscious and unable to give consent, women are used by medical training staff for unauthorised examinations.
The husband stitch
Tears are common when pregnant women deliver their babies through the vagina. Obstetric lacerations can occur in the cervix, vagina, labia, and perineum. Many of these tears aren’t serious and eventually heal on their own. However, severe tears in the perineum can lead to incontinence, pelvic floor injury, pain, and sexual dysfunction.
Some tears can be treated with stitches. But the husband stitch has no treatment in mind. It adds an extra stitch in repairing vaginal tears to make it tighter and give more pleasure to the sexual partner. There’s a misguided belief that the vagina stretches out after birth and has no sexual pleasure. Or that it can’t return to its pre-birth size. The husband stitch isn’t a trained procedure. Many couples who ask for it do it without awareness. Women who want to strengthen the pelvic floor should do Kegel exercises instead.
Read also: Benefits Of Kegel Exercises For Men And Women
The husband stitch can also cause great harm. If it’s too tight, it can lead to more pain during sex. Any stitches performed to repair tears are meant to treat the lacerations, not reduce the size of the vagina. The vagina naturally regains its elasticity and gets its pre-birth size without needing tightening stitches.
Medical examinations on women without consent
Non-consensual pelvic examinations often happen to women in teaching hospitals. Medical students perform internal examinations on unconscious patients without their knowledge. It happens more frequently with vaginal exams, but there have been non-consensual prostate exams.
Studies show that unconsented intimate exams also happen during abdominal surgeries. Consent forms from hospitals don’t distinguish between conscious and unconscious exams. Such exams contribute to medical staff who are more unsympathetic. It also erases the trust between the medical community and patients who need help.
The majority of medical staff perform pelvic exams on anaesthetized patients. It violates bodily autonomy and only serves the student, not the patient. Legislation banning the practice isn’t enough to stop the practice. Medical students have sometimes spoken out against non-consensual pelvic exams on anaesthetized women, but many fear retaliation.
These unconsented pelvic exams are sexual assault. Some doctors don’t see it that way because they believe training other doctors with live human specimens is their duty. But this kind of training dehumanises patients and can lead to more harm for women under medical care.
Research shows that providers can communicate poorly with female patients and have little respect for women’s autonomy. Providers can fail to introduce themselves, and some women can’t use the birthing position of their choice. It can create a vacuum where medical staff can take advantage of the vulnerability of their patients. This can be a disservice to women and can lead to serious conditions or death.
Some training institutions use paid pelvic trainers who consent to students performing intimate exams. They also provide feedback. Other hospitals also have improved their consent forms, but they argue that this makes legislation unnecessary. Patients, especially women, are the ones who should decide what happens to their bodies with full awareness. Non-consensual exams erase the inherent autonomy of patients.
The husband stitch is medical malpractice pic.twitter.com/khzVFAdgB0
— AskAubry 🦝 (@ask_aubry) April 25, 2023
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Maternity Hospital
Nursing Home Abuse: Signs You Need An Attorney
Sexism In Healthcare: Examples And Consequences
6 Ways To Support A Sexual Assault Victim
Health Conditions That Disproportionately Affect Black People