What Motherhood Means for Your Vagina

By Jen Grey

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If you’re anything like me, as soon as you found out you were expecting, you started planning. Planning how to tell your family, what the nursery is going to look like, picking out baby clothes – and some chic maternity treats for yourself – and making checklists of everything you need to do before your baby makes their appearance!

One of the things that’ll probably start featuring high on your list over the second and third trimester is creating a birth plan. As well as working as a blueprint of the type of birth you’d ideally like to have – whether that be a water, natural, medicated, home, hospital or other – your birth plan should also try to predict the various situations you may find yourself in. And, as much as it may be scary to think about, this also means accounting for anything that may go wrong.

What can go wrong during birth?

Unfortunately, too much of what could go wrong during birth is brushed under the carpet – or, even worse, mothers are told to grin and bear it and deal with whatever trauma is left behind the best they can. Conventional advice is often simply ‘yes, it’s going to hurt, but you’ll forget all about it when the baby’s here’ (in reality, you may not recover as quickly – physically or mentally). But, this doesn’t leave much room for empathy and proper support.

It’s no wonder that a study by specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp found that almost 1 in 5 women (19%) are quite worried about issues relating to reproduction, such as pregnancy and childbirth. What we don’t say enough is that it’s perfectly normal to be worried about what’s to come. It’s also so important to accept that the experience may be more traumatic for some women than others. For me, the hardest thing is facing the unknown and not knowing what to expect. So, here are two tips I can give you to help you prepare for what’s to come:

  • Lack of support can be an issue – here’s how to fight it:

One of the things the study found was that over 1 in 10 women don’t feel heard, believed or supported when they talk to doctors about issues like reproduction, fertility and pregnancy. Whether you’re in the middle of making your birth plan or in the middle of labour, you never want to feel like your preferences and opinions are being disregarded.

If you feel like you’re not on the same level with your doctor or midwife, don’t be afraid to shop around until you find someone you’re comfortable with. You’re completely entitled to do so. It’s so important to form good relationships with the medical professionals helping you – as well as to surround yourself with trusted friends and family who will speak up on your behalf if you’re unable to.

  • Your vagina will go through some changes; know what’s normal and what isn’t.

You’ve probably heard horror stories about what can happen “down there” during labour. For one, you may experience vaginal tears, for which a perineum massage can help. In the weeks after labour, you may find your vagina is sore and painful, and looser because your pelvic floor muscles have become weaker. Regular Kegel floor exercises can help here.

Whatever issues you’re going through, it may be worth checking in with your doctor, even if all you’re doing is getting their confirmation that it’s all normal (the definition of normal being that it’s not harmful or cause for concern – “normal” will be different for everyone). Read as much as you can about the different after-effects of labour to make sure you can identify when something is problematic.

As you experience each stage of pregnancy in your journey to becoming a parent, take the time to prepare as much as possible for what’s to come. Read, ask questions and discover new things about your changing body – and don’t forget to appreciate the quirks that help make pregnancy so unique to each one of us.