Janine Gard is a diploma-qualified birth educator (2005) and founder of Bellies to Babies antenatal and postnatal classes. She has helped more than 3700 parents prepare themselves mentally, emotionally and physically for their journey to parenthood and loves what she does. This week Janine is talking about whether to shave or not prior to giving birth.
There are lots of things women need to do to prepare physically and emotionally for giving birth.
From eating healthily, gaining knowledge about your options, to learning how to look after your tiny human when they're born - there are all kinds of considerations and what to do, if anything, about your pubic hair may be one of them
Many women choose to groom their pubic hair these days, whether it's by waxing or shaving, and some opt to do so ahead of labour and birth. But many midwives advise against and there's a very good reason for it.
Research has found that some people get busy with wax or their razor for two key reasons: either they're worried about what their midwives will think if they've let everything go a bit "wild" down there, or they think a neat trim will make their (sometimes heavy) postnatal bleeding (lochia) a bit easier to cope with. Or both.
What's the official line?
The Royal College of Midwives will tell you that no midwife would tell or expect a pregnant woman to shave or wax her pubic hair before turning up in the labour ward. If you want to, that's fine; if you don't, that's also fine.
But, they added, there's no reason to tidy up down there just for them. Your midwife would be so busy, doing her job, that the last thing she'd notice would be the trimness - or otherwise - of your pubic hair.
Research and medical studies have shown there is no benefit or medical reason for shaving — only clear risks. It's true that for decades, women were shaved in the hospital before delivery — but they were also given enemas, twilight sleep and sometimes strapped to the bed. Thankfully, science has progressed and we know a lot more now (phew!). Shaving and waxing actually cause micro-abrasions on the skin's surface which can become infected - which is not something you want to be worrying about when you're about to have a baby.
Do I need to be shaved for a C-section?
For planned C-sections shaving the hairs around the pubic region are sometimes offered to women if the hair growth around that area is likely to interfere with the surgical incision.
Even then, the hair removal will be minimal and specific to certain areas – as shaving loads of pubic hair off just before C-section surgery may risk a chance of infection in the hair follicles and recovering from a C-section is hard enough, you don't need to add an infection on top of it.
What are the options and guidelines if you want to tidy up?
A bikini wax might be painful for some people during pregnancy as your body is extra sensitive. If badly done, it may leave open pores or cause allergic reactions and infection. Hence many LMCs will advise against waxing closer to your estimated due date. However, they are safe during pregnancy. Engage the services of a reputed salon/experienced grooming expert. Also, do not attempt any DIY waxing procedures.
Depilatories are very popular with a large spectrum of women. There is no pain involved and they are definitely cheaper. These can be used easily at home with or without the assistance of your partner.
A lot of people believe that the absorption of chemicals from creams into the skin can harm the baby, but there is no study to prove these claims.
In fact, newer studies go to prove that it is not the chemicals that are a concern but the inhalation of strong smells from them that could cause irritation. It is always advisable to do a patch test before you commit to full removal.
Using these creams on your pubic region when your belly obscures your view and your balance isn't like usual, may be difficult. You could ask your partner to help you, this may be embarrassing, but it is the safest and most efficient way forward.
This is the most preferred method adopted by LMCs before preparing someone prior to a C-section.
Shaving is completely pain-free. It is safe unless done clumsily to cause scratches and cuts, which as I've mentioned can cause irritation or rashes. Regrowth, however, can be itchy and uncomfortable - aloe vera gel may help to reduce irritation.
There are many women I know who like things natural. If you don't like the bald look, you may consider trimming. This may help in feeling tidier and the risk of any ingrowths or open pores is nil.
A safe and clean pair of small trimming scissors should be used on pubic hair. Be very careful when using it close to the vulval area to avoid cuts or you may like to ask your partner to help.
Whether you decide to do it yourself, get it done or decide to leave your lady garden natural, remember that it is best to weigh your options and decide to go ahead with the one that you are most comfortable with.
• Bellies to Babies antenatal and postnatal classes, baby massage courses and baby and infant first aid courses, 2087 Pakowhai Rd, Hawke's Bay, 022 637 0624. https://www.hbantenatal-classes.co.nz/
Medical disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians.