Compared to the natural "catgut" sutures that women receive following a vaginal birth, new research suggests that synthetic sutures may cause less pain.
A team of researchers, led by Christine Kettle, Ph.D., of the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, in England, found that women stitched with synthetic sutures had less pain in the three days after giving birth, and took fewer painkillers over the next 10 days.
The scientists admit that the skill of the person doing the stitching may also be an important factor. 70 percent women who give birth vaginally need stitches if their perineum (the muscles and skin between the vagina and the anus) is damaged.
Pain at the sutured tear or cut "can be distressing for the new mother when she is trying to cope with hormonal changes and the demands of her baby, and it can have a long-term effect on her sexual relationship," Kettle said.
When Kettle and colleagues compared standard synthetic sutures to a rapidly absorbing synthetic stitch, they found that a physician or midwife needed to remove standard sutures more often.
"This is an important finding," she said, "as women report that having perineal sutures removed is an extremely unpleasant procedure."
Although the review found that catgut sutures were more painful than synthetic stitches over the short-term, most women in developed countries already receive synthetic stitches, the reviewers noted.
The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library.