November 22, 2017

Hello ladies! I have been wanting to have an honest conversation with you about our bodies for a while now, but more importantly our vaginas. No matter what you call it, I think we can all agree we owe vaginas a lot. All women do, but even more so once you've given birth and it basically gives you the most perfect little being in the world. In my opinion it is truly the most incredible part of our body, yet somehow the most under cared for. It gives us pleasure, it gives us pain, it gives us life. I never appreciated all it does until I gave birth to Oslo and realised that this organ we take for granted, needs to be taken care of. So let's break open this taboo topic, and shine a little light on our vaginas!

I feel like leading up to birth during the whole pregnancy we prepare and educate ourselves so much on how the baby comes out. But for me I never thought about what to do afterwards. So there I was only a couple weeks after I had Oslo, looking down at what was left of my body, and having no idea what to do with my vagina. I had an episiotomy and felt very disconnected to this new reality between my legs. I was completely uneducated as to what would happen with it all. No one asked me if I knew what to do? Neither my doctor nor midwife seemed concerned about what my after care would be, which I know is the reality for most women. So once my stitches healed and I was as back to  as "normal" as I was going to get, I went about my life as I did before. Not taking much time to think of how my vagina feels after it was just pushed to its limits. 

Since I didn't have my period for the whole pregnancy and then another year after while I breastfed Oslo, I didn't pay much attention to it. Stupidly I never saw a doctor for a check up or anything until I became pregnant with Louie, just a year after I gave birth. During my second pregnancy I started to think about my vagina again and what I was about to put it through, poor thing! I went for an appointment with a new midwife while I was over 30 weeks pregnant, and she asked me "What are you planning on doing for your pelvic floor reeducation classes after birth?" Um say what? I had no real idea what she was talking about at all. She explained to me that our pelvic floor becomes extremely weak after birth and that they need to be exercised to build back strength, and ensure we don't pee our pants every time we have to go. She also explained the reeducation helps tighten those muscles back up, which I know our partners will thank us for later. After I asked about a million questions about all that, I was left wondering "Why aren't we educated more about our lady parts?"

I think for anyone who has watched Sex and The City knows about kegel muscles, right? Well what we have learned from that amazing show is just one aspect. There is a whole other world down there that no HBO show can teach us, even though that show taught me so much. After my first postnatal appointment with my midwife, my mind was blown. I was thinking "Samantha didn't mention anything about this!" 

At about 7 weeks postpartum I went for my first reeducation appointment with my midwife Nadège. She is the amazing midwife that delivered Louie, and at this point I would pretty much trust her with my life. I love her. She's young and makes awkward things like you know, VAGINAS, not awkward at all. She starts my appointment by asking me if I have troubles holding in my pee? "Ah yep!" She asks me if I have had these reeducation classes before? "Nope!" Also if I really know what my pelvic floor and perineum are? "Kind of!" But not really at all. She basically tells me our perineum is like a bowl that holds in our organs so there is a lot of pressure on it, and if the muscle is not strong that is how we become, God forbid... incontinent. She tells me that majority of women in the world are not educated about perineums and the pelvic floor, and this is why so many of us have issues when we are older. All I could think was, "I guess it's a good thing I showed up to this appointment then." Nadège then explains what exercises we will do and says the pelvic floor is like a flower, with front petals, back petals, side petals, and the heart of the flower. "You're relating my vagina to a flower?' I thought "Well I love flowers, I'm totally on board!" 

I hop up on her examination table and she proceeds to put some very cold lubricant on her two fingers. This cold gel was actually a great relief because it was summer and I was sweltering. I do apologise for this visual, but... she then puts her fingers inside me and explains the different petals I have, and asks me to contract each one when she asks me to. She wants me to practice differentiating each one and basically tells me if I am doing it right or not. Once she goes through them all I am amazed at how complex our perineum, vaginas, and all of our lady business is. I would have never guessed we have more than six different areas we can work on to strengthen those muscles.

For education's sake I thought I would include what each of the petals I worked on are, and the exercises she gave me to do. Maybe this will help us all have stronger vaginas together!

The Heart of the Flower
(the center of the vagina)
Pull straight up, hold and release. 30 reps a day. Nadège advises never doing all the reps at the same time for any of the exercises, because you will eventually just lose feeling, and you won't be able to feel if you are doing it correctly. Try and do them throughout the day for the best results.

The Side Petals
 (the two internal side walls of your vagina, not your external labia)
Contract together and release. 30 reps a day. Try and visualise you are contracting them together till they touch.

The Back Petal
(I don't know how else to say it... your anus)
Like the Heart of the Flower, pull straight up as if you are holding in a you know what. 30 reps a day.
Fun Fact: Nadège informed me that if you are holding in a pee, instead of clenching you urethra, try pulling up your back petal. For some reason, (something scientific I'm sure) it helps relieve the need to pee.

The Diamond
This one is a bit tricky, but to help you just visualise your genitals like a diamond. Your clitoris is the top and your anus is the bottom. Now you are going to visualise yourself touching those two together. Hold and release. 30 reps a day.

The Sliding Doors
(your labia, the inner and outer folds of the vulva)
Pull each door together and release. Like the side petals only this one is not done inside your vagina. 30 reps a day.

The Front Petal 
(your clitoris)
Imagine the exercise is like a 3. You want to pull your clitoris up half way and around, and then again. 30 reps a day. For me this one is the hardest and something I am still working on, but visualising the 3 shape does help do it. 

After she shows me each exercise I am given instructions to do the Heart of the Flower and Side Petals at home, and then she sends me on my way. Every day after I sit on my sofa, put Netflix on and proceed with my exercises. James stares at me and wonders why I look so concentrated? If only he knew what I was up to.

I go back for my second appointment a few days later and she checks to make sure I have been doing the exercises correctly, and then she adds the Back Petal and the Diamond to my other two. The next appointment I have the following week, she adds the last two, the Sliding Doors and the Front Petal. She asks me to continue all of these back at home, doing 30 reps of each everyday. That might not sound like a lot, but it really is and I swear my perineum has never been so tired. The good news is I can feel it is getting stronger. Just like any other muscle or organ, the more you exercise it the stronger it feels, and I have really felt a difference already. The exercises also become easier to do and you don't have to concentrate as much on them. So easy in fact, I'm doing mine right now!

We are lucky enough in France that these reeducation classes are encouraged and completely covered by our public health care system. I know in North America and in the UK these classes are not really known about, but that doesn't mean they are not offered. I really can't tell you how important these classes have been to me, it really has opened my eyes to how amazing our female bodies are and how vital it is to take care of our precious perineums and vaginas. I'm kicking myself that I didn't go after the first time I gave birth.

I think for most of us vaginas can be a tricky topic to talk about, I get it, but I wanted to do my part in sharing the importance in knowing a little more about them. I know how disconnected we can feel to our bodies, especially our vaginas postpartum. One thing we have to remember is after we have had our baby and have healed it's not an open and shut case. What we go through is insane, so I think taking the time to put the focus back on our bodies postpartum is so valuable long term. So don't be shy and please go ask your health care provider, midwife or doctor if they can educate you and your lady parts. If nothing else just do it for your sex life! Oh and FYI, men have perineums as well, am I the only person that didn't know that?

I'm curious, have you ever reeducated your vagina? Did you notice a difference?
If you haven't would you try it? Or does it seem too crazy and personal?

I would love to hear your opinions and comments!

Thank you so much for sharing this very taboo topic with me, I really hope you learned something.

(Top photo by Lucy Han, Second photo by Wesley Johnson)

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  1. I love this post because I’m in the midst of pelvic floor physio therapy right now. I had a difficult delivery with my first baby 14 weeks ago - he was 9 pounds and facing up, which makes delivery difficult. They used the vacuum and forceps, and I had an episiotomy and third degree tear. Then, at one week postpartum, my stitches came apart and I had to have a surgery to repair the area again. I’m just now beginning to feel somewhat normal, though I’m not all the way there yet! Thankfully, after the surgery, my OB recommended pelvic floor physio, which I certainly didn’t know was a thing lol! Even in Canada it’s offered privately so it’s not covered by OHIP or many insurance providers, but thankfully my insurance covers it. It’s been so helpful in restrengthening the area for the reasons you mentioned above - and just to give me peace of mind that I’m healing properly. The crazy thing is that even though this healthcare service would be beneficial for all women who’ve given birth, only those with difficult births like me are offered it. Like you say, I think we could do a better job teaching each other about the complexity of the pelvic floor, birth and aftercare!

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!
      I'm so glad you are going through physio therapy after such a difficult birth. That is incredible after all that you successfully had a vaginal birth. Oslo was facing up as well which was very hard!
      That's so great your OB recommended the therapy for you, it will make such a difference long term. It seems most countries only prescribe it for difficult births, that's why I feel lucky that in France anyone woman can get it. Hopefully that changes soon for other countries! All the best in your recovery xx

  2. Thank you. I knew none of this!

    1. You're very welcome! I'm so glad you learned from it :)

  3. Sooooo important! I only heard about this after my second pregnancy and birth. Apparently, doctors don't regularly prescribe or promote pelvic floor therapy because it is not covered by our national health care plan. And if you don't have private insurance, it can be costly.But either way, totally worth the time, effort and money. Big time.

    1. Same with me! It really is a shame more doctors and midwives don't discuss it more. Hopefully that changes soon! Thanks so much for reading xx

  4. You're amazing. The end xx

    1. Thank you so much my beauty, means the world! xxx