Will a natural birth affect my future sex life?


Many women are plagued with questions surrounding the changes pregnancy brings about, midwife and doula Maria Sterrenberg gives some answers and advice for undecided mothers.

Some battle to decide on birthing options because of certain implications in the long run, such as incontinence and a ruined sex life.

While some things may be true, others may very well be myths, such as one’s sex life being affected by childbirth because of the assumption that if baby comes through the vagina, it will never return to the original shape.

This is a myth.

Pelvic activity

What actually affects the enlarging of the vagina and slacking of the pelvic floor is the pregnancy itself.

It is the weeks of heavy pressure on the pelvic region pushing the muscles out of shape.

Also, relaxin - the hormone discharged by the placenta - causes cervix dilation and essentially relaxes the pelvic muscles.

This is the reason behind midwives and antenatal teachers strongly encouraging mothers to do pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels.

Even women who have elective Caesareans may have the effects of relaxed pelvic floor muscles.

Read: Exercise after vaginal birth

Also, the difference between a managed vaginal birth and a natural birth are vast.

Perineum care

With a managed vaginal birth the mother is routinely laid on her back with feet up in stirrups in order for the doctor to see the perineal area.

Now that the mother is lying in the stranded beetle position, the baby is putting immense pressure on the perineum and doctors prefer to cut this muscle than letting it tear.

This is where you hear the stories of incontinence happening when an episiotomy then tears through to the anus.

With a truly natural birth the caregiver, most often a midwife, lets the mother move into any position that she's comfortable with.

Most mothers choose to birth in a squatting position or on their hands and knees.

Both these positions allow the baby to exit the birth canal with more ease and minimal pressure on the perineal muscle.

Also your caregiver will often tell you to blow or pant during the contractions when baby’s head is opening the vagina, this also allows for stretching to occur without tearing.

You should interview various caregivers and ask what their episiotomy rate is (most of the midwives I work with have less than 1% episiotomy rate) and what position are they happy to support you birthing in.

This should give you a clear indication of what kind of birth outcome you will have.

Under the cut

Finally, don’t be fooled into thinking a Caesarean is the "safer" option. Statistically, this is not so.

The other implication about Caesareans is that you're going to experience major abdominal surgery - cutting through 7 layers to get to the baby.

The risks include damage to other internal organs including your bowels and the ever-present super-bug infections.

Read: Recovering from a c-section

You and your partner should attend antenatal classes as early as possible and possibly try to find an early pregnancy workshop in your area.

Choosing a birthing option can be tricky. Let us know what helped you make a decision by emailing chatback@parent24.com.

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