In keeping with the trend to give advice to our younger selves, I want to do the same for my vagina.
Dear Pre-Natal Vagina,
You are beautiful, magnificent, strong, resilient, and tough AF. You likely don’t realize your potential to do great things yet. Much like every other part of our youthful body, you work seamlessly and with little effort or maintenance. Oh, to be young.
I’m from the future, a post-natal and experienced vagina. I’ve seen things you can’t imagine. I’ve felt things that you only read about in books or learn in school. I want to take this opportunity to discuss some of the things you will experience and how it will change and shape you. But, if you heed my advice, you will have confidence to face any challenge that comes in your direction (and, FYI, they come either direction…)
We associate holding stress in our body in many areas; our necks, our shoulders, our jaw, and between our temples. We rarely think about holding stress in our vagina, but it is often one of the first body parts that reacts to stress. Think about a gory image. Maybe your fingernail ripping off or cutting open your hand with a sharp knife. Did you feel any sensation between your legs or into your stomach? Your pelvic floor just contracted because a stressful image was envisioned and we will guard our most intimate area first and foremost. We hold stress in our vaginas like we hold stress in any other part of our bodies and the longer you let it become a static state, the harder it becomes to turn around the normal. You will be exhausted being on high alert all the time.
You don’t know how to relax much yet, pre-natal vagina, but you can learn today! Do not wait till a problem arises or we become pregnant. Learn how to breathe relaxation into this area. Learn how to release those muscles with stretches, a tool or your own finger. Learn how to recognize when either is needed.
Book in to see a pelvic physiotherapist to give you a baseline and help you develop an awareness for your pelvic floor muscles and help maintain tranquility down there.
Let’s talk about the two types of pressure we will experience during and after pregnancy:
- First, there’s the pressure from the sheer weight of our growing baby and how they sit (headstand actually) on our pelvic floor muscles. Our pelvic floor acts as an active sling to keep our bladder and reproductive organs from falling on the floor. It’s a tough job and now there’s anywhere from 1-11lbs of baby weight making the job even harder. This is going to be pretty demanding on all our muscles down there.
- Second, after we give birth, our abdominals are pretty out of whack. They’ve been stretched out, but, truthfully, at this point, we may be self conscious of our stomach sticking out so we suck in every time we pass a window or mirror. This directs our intrabdominal pressure downwards, which is the internal pressure we hold in our core. More pressure down, means more pressure for our pelvic floor muscles to hold up. They are already so tired and to be honest, traumatized from that baby passing through that all they know how to do is clench and never let go. An exhausting task.
So, once again, pre-natal vagina, my advice is to book in to see a pelvic physiotherapist who will teach you to get into safe positions to relieve the baby weight off your pelvic floor. They will teach you how to appropriately strengthen or release this region and finally, they will assess how you are using your abdominal muscles to ensure the downward pressure is minimized.
3) BIRTH & PERINEAL MASSAGE
To be blunt, a watermelon needs to come out a hole the size of a lemon. I mentioned earlier that you have tremendous potential to adapt and be resilient in the face of a challenge. Birth is one of the greatest challenges a vagina will ever face. You have no idea how large of a baby will stretch you apart until they are out and already on the weigh scale.
Dearest pre-natal vagina, I failed you when I foolishly chose not to prepare your tissues. Who runs a marathon without training? Who gives a presentation without preparing the PowerPoint slides? Who goes on a road trip without filling the car up with gas?
I’m so sorry pre-natal vagina, I took you into birth blind.
In fairness, our first birth was huge and I could barely reach you around my belly. I read about letting my partner do the perineal massage for me but could we really trust him down there? He’s not skilled with his hands and in the last month of pregnancy, we don’t need him to mistaken this as foreplay.
There is evidence to support that perineal massage helps prepare your pelvic floor to the type of stretch that is needed when giving birth. Over the last 4-5 weeks of pregnancy, you slowly start stretching this tissue to grow accustomed to what you will feel during active labour.
Book in to see a pelvic physiotherapist in your last 6 weeks of pregnancy and they will show you an effective way to massage your pelvic floor and ready it for that watermelon.
Pre-natal vagina, I’ve even done you one better to over compensate for how poorly I let you down. You will tell all your vagina girlfriends so no other vagina will go into labour as unprepared as I allowed you. I’ve developed a tool to help with perineal massage and manually releasing your pelvic floor muscles from stress. I can’t give away all the details yet but it is in it’s final stages of production and will be manufactured this fall. It’s beautifully designed to add a little reach and innovative for the different thermal needs a vagina may have before and after birth. It’s sleek as hell so stay tuned, it will be brilliant.
You see a dentist every year, even if you don’t have a cavity. You see your doctor annually, even if you are not sick. You see a massage therapist, even if you have not strained a muscle. You do regular maintenance and oil changes on your car, even if the engine light isn’t on.
So if I have not been explicit enough, book in to see a pelvic physiotherapist before you even get pregnant to check the health of your vagina. As an experienced vagina, trust me, you are sacred and deserve the same care we give the rest of our body.
With love and respect,
Your Post-Natal Vagina
Kate has been a physiotherapist for 14 years at one of the top sport medicine clinics in Toronto. After the birth of her two very large babies, she became a busy, athletic mom with all the “common but not normal” post-partum incontinence symptoms. She has since become a certified pelvic health therapist and a Studio Lagree Pilates instructor. Her extensive background in all these areas lets her be uniquely suited to restoring pelvic floor function and overall functional movement in women and men trying to be active and accident-free.