Of all the useless things that I worried about before labour, getting a bikini wax was high on the list. At 37 weeks pregnant, I dragged my waddling ass to my waxing lady to get a full-on Brazilian. She didn’t bat an eye, and in fact, she commended me for my efforts to preserve my dignity and spare my delivery team from the horrors of an unkempt bush.
It was the most excruciating wax of my life. I was already swollen and sensitive down there, as are all expectant women, thanks to the increased blood flow to the external genitalia such as the labia during pregnancy. So, getting hot wax spread on my vulva and then having it ripped off with a bleached cotton strip—over and over and over again—was maybe not the smoothest move.
To be clear, it also looked ridiculous. While I was overwhelmed with gratitude to my fearless waxing lady for giving me that hairless G-string look, perhaps a layer of hair around my bulging lower extremities would have been a better call. Picture, if you will, a baboon’s butt.
In order to understand how misplaced women’s obsession with their pubic hair is, we also need to unpack our deep insecurities and shame around our vulvas, and our instinct to apologize for how they look (or smell), whether it’s to our sexual partners or medical providers, including doctors, midwives, nurses, ultrasound techs and pelvic floor physiotherapists.
When speaking with other women and health care professionals about the superficial concerns that women may agonize over during pregnancy, body hair was one of the most troubling. “It's really sad," one midwife told me. "They shouldn’t be removing pubic hair for us. We look at vulvas all day long and we don’t even notice the hair."
She confirms that getting waxed is more painful during pregnancy, and that pregnant women should avoid laser hair removal, too. (There are no studies that look at the safety of laser hair removal during pregnancy but there are reports it can lead to permanent skin discoloration.) Even simply shaving before labour is not recommended by doctors.
And yet, when I asked a group of moms in my neighbourhood to share some of the weirdest things they did or demanded during labour, removing body hair came up multiple times.
“My water broke the day before my waxing appointment. I made my husband get in the shower with me, get on his knees and shave EVERYTHING! I would hit and grab his back with every contraction. My vanity was more important than his (or my) comfort at that moment!” one mom commented.
In the throes of labour, another mother confessed she was mortified about not being “cleaned up” for her hospital team and apologized profusely to them. “I was in labour, holding a razor and a tweezer, debating which part of my body to clean up. I remember thinking to myself, There’s going to be pictures, what do I need to clean up? I decided on armpits and eyebrows. While pushing, I apologized to the nurse for my hairy legs and ugly toes. ‘I’m really sorry!’ *Push* ‘I had a waxing and nail’ *push* appointment! I tried, I’m sorry!’”
Hilarious, but also heartbreaking. After having two daughters, I’ve become painfully aware of how women are preconditioned from childhood to feel ashamed of their bodies, and the obsession with hair removal is happening at younger ages than ever.
That pre-labour Brazilian was the last time I took it all off. In fact, I’ve been trying to grow out my pubic hair, because I fear my daughters will never know what a real bush looks like. I didn’t wax at all for my second birth, and I wish other women would also try to let go of this infantilized image of the female body (thanks, porn industry), by taking them back aesthetically to a prepubescent age.
Pregnant women, whether this is your first baby or your fifth, it’s time to reclaim your pubic hair, or at the very least, stop apologizing for it in the delivery room. There’s no better time to own your body and be more comfortable in your own skin.