Even with less than a week to go to my due date, and even in
the midst of the various "helpful" birth stories I'm being fed by unsolicited advice-givers (WHY do people do that?), I'm feeling more emboldened than I ever
thought possible about the labor process. Yes, there's going to be pain. I get
that. I also know there's a pretty amazing payoff to hold in my arms. What I'm
not so excited about is what comes after that.
No, it's not the mesh postpartum undies or, weirdly enough, the
lack of sleep paired with those insanely hormonal roller coasters that have me
daunted. It's the possibility that my lady parts may never fully recover.
Peeing my pants when I cough or sneeze? That's the new
normal that I have to look forward to? Not to mention the added bonus of strapping
on a pair Depends before tending to my baby's diaper (the irony of which is not
lost on me).
As I grapple with this impending potential problem, the more
baffled I become that women talk more about their top picks for boppy loungers and
rock 'n' plays when these issues are being shared—and suffered—in silence.
And why should issues affecting our post-birth vaginas be taboo? After all, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, up to 29
percent of women (that would be about one in every three of your Mommy & Me friends)
report having episodes of incontinence after childbirth. Though Kegel exercises
to strengthen the pelvic floor are all well and good, sometimes the area down
there requires a bit more fixing.
France gets a gold star in this department (then again, a
country that advocates serving cheese at every meal including dessert always wins in
my book). After giving birth, the French provide new mamas with "la rééducation périnéale," a type of physical therapy to retrain the
muscles of your pelvic floor. This postnatal education system has been in place
since 1985—paid for by French social security—and makes France one of only a
handful of countries that sponsor such an initiative.
While mamas here in the States might not get the
same focus on how to effectively repair their nether-regions (other than a friendly
reminder to practice those Kegels!), the good news is that we're embarking on a
new age of vaginal restoration.
From laser vaginal rejuvenation as seen on "Dr.
90210" to vagina "steam spas" (you bet I'm giving those a try at some point—stay tuned), moms are starting to spread the word that it's time to treat our
lady parts some expedient TLC. And some moms are even making it into an
Take Cindy Barshop, owner of The VSPOT on New York City's
Fifth Avenue. Barshop herself suffered from incontinence and vaginal looseness
after giving birth to twin daughters. After undergoing nonsurgical laser
treatments to tighten up "down there," the results were so life-altering that
she decided to make it—what she calls the "fountain of youth for your vagina"—her
"I just can't believe it's such a hush-hush topic
since it's one that affects your everyday life," says Barshop. "Every woman has
incontinence at some point in her life, so this is the way to turn back time."
The treatment, which was FDA approved last year,
involves three rounds of nonsurgical lasers that repair the vaginal tissues
with the possibility of needing a few "touch-ups" in six months to a year. As
Barshop describes, it's a painless procedure (you'll just feel some vibrations)
and only takes about five minutes per treatment. In addition to curing
incontinence, the laser helps with lubrication and increasing vaginal blood
flow—issues that affect not only postpartum moms but menopausal women as well, says
Each treatment at Barshop's VSPOT is $1,150 plus a
$200 "wand" that you keep for personal maintenance. (Sadly, insurance doesn't
cover it. This isn't France, remember). A few other housekeeping notes:
Post-birth patients should wait until everything down there is healed as much
as possible (which takes about three months); also, a pap smear needs to be
done within 60 days of treatment and you have to wait three days post-treatment
before resuming sexual activity.
While Barshop has plans to grow her business
nationwide over the next eight months, she's so passionate about the topic that
she's willing to help women find nearby spas that offer the laser treatment
(just contact her via her website for a referral). And even if you think these
treatments don't apply to you yet (you lucky non-pant-pee-ers), you might want
to rethink that.
"Even if you think you're fine, you might as well
rejuvenate early on. Don't wait until there's a problem," suggests Barshop.
Duly noted. Now we just need a "Vagina Fixing Fund"
option on that baby registry.