The miracle of pregnancy is universal and timeless, and even though we are, by divine design, capable of going through this process, it does have a pronounced effect on our bodies and our sexuality. During this event, higher levels of progesterone cause drowsiness while the increased estrogen lifts our mood, making us more radiant than ever. As our bodies gradually grow larger, we may suffer from stormy hormonal changes. Suddenly we have irrepressible cravings and our sense of smell becomes acute; we have whimsical shifts in preferences and aversions, and if exposed to the sun, we may even acquire a pigmented ‘moustache’ and brown patches on our cheeks.
During the fourth month of pregnancy, our intimate bits also start changing – it becomes puffy and enlarged, and the colour of the labia deepens considerably. Both the increased blood supply to the vagina and the increased pressure on it create a permanent state of gentle sexual arousal, leaving us moist and more conscious of our lady parts. The thin line that runs between our pubic patch to our navels also becomes more pronounced.
The most common long-term problem associated with pregnancy and childbirth include urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
During pregnancy, the weight of the baby, the ‘water’ and the placenta put a twenty-times-heavier-than-normal strain on the pelvic floor, and this often leads to urinary incontinence during the last trimester.
Vacuum extraction, forceps delivery, an episiotomy, lying on the back, and applying fundal pressure (pressing on the abdomen to help move the baby out) are all factors that increase pelvic injury risk during vaginal birth. Even by opting for a caesarian section we are not exempted from pelvic injury risk; in fact, this procedure inceases the risk of maternal death by sixteen-fold, and it increases the risk of having to have a hysterectomy by ten times.
The pelvic floor consists of a complex, multilayered group of muscles, tissues and nerve endings that creates a hammock between the pubic bone and the base of our spinal cord and supports a number of organs including the bladder, rectum, uterus, urethra, vagina and anus. The pelvic floor seems to be the ‘headmistress’ that has all our lady parts neatly secured in her firm hand. She has the huge task of coordinating, directing and protecting all of our beneath-the-belt bits, and she plays a valuable role in our womanly health. We should be well aware of her strengths and shortcomings. The best and safest way to protect ourselves from pelvic floor impairment is Kegel exercises. The importance of these exercises cannot be overemphasized; they play a vital role in the prevention and treatment of pelvic-floor disorders. Work those muscles daily to keep them strong, elastic and toned.