When I was pregnant with my daughter Lilly, I had all the usual anxieties about becoming a parent. But I also had a lot of questions about what was going to happen to my own body. Will I pee when I laugh? Will my labia and breasts hang down to my knees? None of the parenting books covered all the stuff I really wanted to know. Now that I’ve been through it, I take every opportunity to talk about pregnancy, the “fourth trimester” postpartum period after birth, and breastfeeding because these have been the most amazing chapters in my life to date – and by far the most mysterious. Fortunately, I learn something new every day from experts such as Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, a renowned obstetrician and gynecologist, and partner in my quest to help every prospective parent learn the real deal.
In this episode of the Sex, Body, and Soul podcast, Dr. Lincoln and I talk about her new book, Let’s talk about Down There, touching on several important topics your doctor probably never told you. On the podcast, she dishes about common misconceptions around pregnancy, gives tons of helpful hints about important topics such as poop, sleep, and breastfeeding, and walks through how to tell the difference between the common postpartum baby blues (wanting to throw your partner out the window) and anxiety (like checking on your baby every 5 minutes to make sure it is still breathing, as I did) and the more serious postpartum depression.
It is shocking to me how many myths and misconceptions exist, and how many women have to figure things out for themselves, even in the age of books like What to Expect When You’re Expecting. For instance, did you know it’s common to experience changes to size, shape, and color of your vulva and labia when you’re pregnant? I didn’t! I had so many questions: Can I have sex during pregnancy without hurting the baby? (Yes! Unless your health care provider has identified a reason you should not). Is vaginal bleeding after pregnancy sex normal? (It can be, but if you have any worries, contact your provider). Will my vagina ever go back to its old size after pushing out a baby? (Yes! It’s basically a tube of muscles designed for exactly this. But in any case, your clitoris – the only organ created exclusively for women’s pleasure – is unaffected by childbirth so you can enjoy sex again when you are ready, usually 6 weeks after a vaginal birth).
Here is just a small sample of what we discuss on the podcast:
- First, my favorite: poop! Constipation during pregnancy is incredibly common, particularly in the early days. This happens because progesterone levels are rising, which slows down the intestines. Unfortunately for me and my fellow uterus owners, bloating often accompanies constipation because more water is absorbed during the slow ride through the intestines. Sure it can be a bummer, but you’re making a human, so things are bound to get messy at times. Lifestyle changes such as keeping active, staying hydrated, and increasing fiber intake can help for many women (yes, the old standby prunes can help). If you still need relief, stool softeners are another good option to try before bringing out the big guns.
- Sleep. For anyone who has ever spent time around a baby, you know how important this is. Unfortunately, it turns out that many women experience pregnancy insomnia in the days and weeks prior to birth, generally when they were hoping to stock up on valuable sleep. Whaaaat? Pregnant women can take mild sleep aids such as melatonin if necessary, but the best way to treat pregnancy insomnia is to try to identify why it is happening and take it from there. For instance, if a woman can’t sleep because she is uncomfortable in her growing body, a pregnancy pillow can be a lifesaver. Personally, I preferred my pillow to my then-husband!
- Breastfeeding. Sure, it may seem like the most natural thing in the world, but for women whose babies don’t latch easily, it can feel like someone is taking razor blades to their nipples. Seriously. Fortunately, you can prepare for this by talking to your provider before the birth, making sure the place you plan to deliver (and your provider) has lactation consultants so your baby can, at a minimum, get your colostrum (the small amount of breast fluid available immediately after birth, before your milk comes in). Colostrum is a superfood full of immune, growth and tissue repair factors.
If you are a uterus owner or love a uterus owner, you will want to listen to this podcast. You can also help yourself or a loved one prepare for a successful pregnancy and “fourth trimester” postpartum period by getting them a Body Agency ovulation kit, pregnancy tests, and of course, Dr. Lincoln’s new book, Let’s Talk About Down There.
As always, thanks for listening. I hope you learned something – I know I did!