Unless you are a doctor, physical therapist, or birthing expert, chances are you don’t know a ton about your own anatomy. If you are my age or older, chances are the birds and the bees was a taboo subject in your childhood home, and entering the worlds of sex and pregnancy and childbirth were learn-as-you-go experiences.
We eventually figure it out, right? Sex happens (whether you had “the talk” or not). You get pregnant. And, ultimately, the baby has to come out. One way or another.
I’m not going to give you an anatomy lesson. And this isn’t a how-to tutorial on sex or childbirth. In my 1000-words-or-less realm of communication, we must stick to the point. And the painful point is: What you don’t know about yourself can hurt you. And our chances of developing a perinatal mood disorder increase considerably when we feel helpless, clueless, or powerless about our bodies.
It is time we reclaim our bodies, women. We can’t sit on the sidelines as our doctors tell us the bare minimum of our anatomy. It is shameful that in 2017 we know so little about ourselves, and accept rushed and dismissive doctors’ pittance of information about our own health. It is embarrassing that it is still taboo to talk about your physical selves, as if we don’t have needs, or our needs are indecent somehow. That is not empowering. Especially when we are carrying and caring for ourselves after childbirth.
A few things you probably didn’t realize:
Giving birth while on your back (or propped):
This position is standard simply because it is convenient for doctors, and for no other reason. Period. In fact, giving birth in this position can increase the likelihood of stalled labor, emergency c-sections, use of forceps, tearing of the perineum, and uterine prolapse.
Speaking of perineum tearing:
Episiotomies are rarely done anymore, thank goodness. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t tear. As mentioned above, you are more likely to tear if you give birth in an unnatural position (laying on a hospital bed), and if your doctor doesn’t rub and massage your perineum during labor. That’s right, if your doctor is worth her salt, she will work that perineum, and work it good, stimulating blood flow to the area and loosening the pelvic muscles to help them expand naturally.
Prolapse is a bitch
Feeling a bit heavy “down there?” Did you know that 40% of women experience some degree of prolapse after giving birth? That is almost half of us! And it isn’t something that we can “just live with”, like love handles or stretch marks. Prolapse of the uterus or bladder will cause incontinence, painful urination, painful sex, and a bulging of the organs through your pelvic floor. That’s right, your organs are literally falling out of your body. And, although it is 2017, there isn’t much doctors can do about it after the fact, except surgery. What they don’t tell you is that so much can be done to prevent it and slow it down. Remember Kegels? They aren’t just trendy, they are necessary! Be hip AND healthy—do your kegels.
Sex should never be painful:
If it is- stop. Figure out what is up and talk to your doctor. Pronto.
Your vulva is not your vagina. Tell your friends. And your children.
Still referring to your pelvic floor area as your vagina? Stop it now. The area between your legs consisting of your labia, clitoris, perineum, and opening of your vagina is called your vulva. The vagina is simply the canal connecting your vulva to your uterus. If we aren’t calling it what it is, then how can we know how it works? Empower yourself!
Women are dying in childbirth again. Knowledge is power!
Despite the vast and significant improvements to maternal and obstetrical health care, even in very recent years, there is a very high maternal mortality rate in the United States. Seven to nine hundred women in the US are dying each year due to complications that arise from childbirth, and the Center for Disease Control indicates that the majority of them are preventable deaths. That is the worst statistic among those of developing nations worldwide. And, the majority of those preventable deaths are among rural, black women. Click here to find articles and information about how to stay healthy after giving birth, and what signs and symptoms postpartum are cause for concern.
There are many more, obviously, but you get the picture. Knowing our bodies and our needs should be empowering, not shameful. Rally around your sisters and speak up! Talk about your bodies! Talk about sex! The only way we can help ourselves is if we know ourselves. Demand answers and explanations from your physicians and healthcare providers. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, the internet is a cache of information, complete with pictures and diagrams. The more informed we are about our bodies, the more in control we will feel. And that will significantly improve our mental health, making us better equipped for, well, everything.