Search icon


10th Jul 2022

Are we suffering in silence?: How pregnancy and childbirth can affect our bodies

Melissa Carton

Are we suffering in silence?

From swelling to varicose veins, perineal tears and perineal pain, physical changes to the vagina and vulva during pregnancy and birth are normal and in fact, extremely common.

Except nobody really talks about them.

A survey carried out by the brand in Ireland recently revealed that 51 per cent of Irish mams experienced a tear or episiotomy during childbirth, meaning that over half of new Irish mothers have experienced physical changes to their ‘bits’.

But how many of us openly speak about those changes and how we feel about them?

The Irish survey also revealed that post-birth, Irish women experienced a number of unexpected postpartum discomforts such as a sore perineal area (22 per cent), bowel issues (35 per cent) and bladder issues (18 per cent) to name but a few.

My Expert Midwife discovered that two thirds of women believe there is a social stigma around discussing your genitals during pregnancy and after childbirth.

In a survey they carried out with over 1,000 women in the UK, embarrassment (48 per cent) and shame (45 per cent) were among the key reasons holding them back, while over half (52 per cent) admitted they simply did not know what to say.

It is critical that women are aware of these symptoms to ensure a healthy pregnancy and aid postpartum recovery, but also so that they don’t feel alone, or as though they are the odd one out.

Lesley Gilchrist, Registered Midwife and Founder of My Expert Midwife, said:

“It is clear that many women feel a sense of awkwardness or embarrassment when it comes to discussing the physical changes that affect the vagina and vulva during pregnancy and childbirth.

However, this stigma risks leading to a gap in our knowledge and understanding of this important subject, which in turn, can have a hugely negative impact on women’s physical and mental health, particularly during the postpartum period.

At My Expert Midwife, we believe that open discussion is required.”

Speaking further on the subject of normalising women speaking about their bodies Commenting on the campaign, DJ, presenter and mum, Ashley James, said:

“I have so much admiration for the female body, particularly since giving birth. Eight months on, I’ve experienced stitches, prolapse, piles and incontinence. I’m getting better, but I’m still recovering now, and that’s okay.

My pregnancy with Alfie taught me so much about my body and what it’s capable of. I think it’s important to shout about and celebrate that. I feel like women are taught to fear pregnancy, or how our bodies will look and feel after birth. We aren’t really told what happens to our bodies and how important it is to look after ourselves as well as our babies. We are recovering.”

James went on to say that our bodies should never feel like a taboo topic;

“There’s so much taboo and embarrassment, but there shouldn’t be as our bodies are just recovering having done something incredible. It takes time. We only ever hear about postnatal bodies in the context of weight loss and snapping back, but there is so much more to it than that.

As a society, we don’t talk enough about how our ‘bits’ can be affected by pregnancy.

So many people suffer in silence when it comes to embarrassing pregnancy symptoms. By normalising conversations about the physical side effects (the good AND the bad), I hope more women will open up about their experiences, so they don’t feel alone or as though they are the odd one out.”

Why we as women feel we need to hide when we’re struggling is beyond me, but it’s true and it’s time for change.

We need to speak up regarding our health, especially after childbirth, because the truth is we can’t look after anyone else until me look after ourselves.