Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Stop the Slicing

Episiotomies, a surgical incision about two to four centimetres long that is used to enlarge the vaginal opening during childbirth, are currently one of the most common surgical procedures performed on women. (Guys: to get a grasp on this that's closer to home, think of a slice that goes from the bottom of your scrotal sac down to your anus.)

A new study shows that the procedure is harmful and offers no benefits.

In other words, what women could have told them all along...
The supposed benefits of episiotomies during childbirth don't, in fact, exist, a new review suggests. ... For decades, doctors assumed it was better to cut than allow spontaneous tearing during childbirth, arguing the latter damage is harder to repair. It was also thought the procedure helped women to avoid incontinence and improve their sex lives. But a new review of 26 previous studies concludes episiotomies are actually linked to a higher risk of injury, more pain, more stitches and a longer recovery time after childbirth.

The procedure had no effect on incontinence or sexual function, Dr. Katherine Hartmann of the University of North Carolina and her colleagues reported in the May 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

...A recent review by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also concluded that episiotomy offers no health benefits, and routine use can be more harmful than not having one."

[Emphasis added]

The CBC story omits just *how* episiotomies were supposed to help "improve their sex lives." The answer?--"the husband stitch."

The husband stitch refers to the practice where (predominantly male) doctors, typically without consulting their female patient, stitch up that incision and then helpfully keep stitching, to make the post-birth vaginal opening even smaller than it was before delivery, in order to keep things "nice and tight" for the husband. You know, the same way they do with third-world female genital mutilation practices.

Would someone care to explain how slicing open my perineum and then over-stitching me is going to improve *my* sex life? And why haven't doctors ever decided that slicing men open would improve *their* sex lives?

So, male doctors "assumed" they knew what was best for female patients; women were harmed and ignored; and the happy husbands weren't complaining. In other words, business as usual in the world of western "women's" medicine.

I know of cases as recent as the 1970's where doctors in remote areas have refused women painkillers during delivery on the pretext that the pain of childbirth is God's punishment for the sin of Eve.

Let us hope that word spreads faster on the danger of episiotomies and we can quickly file it in the overpacked archives of obsolete, misogynist medical abuses against women.

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