When my friends and I were pregnant and approaching our due dates, I remember our hushed conversations over coffee.
“Are you going to wax before the delivery?” one of us would ask.
“I don’t know how far in advance to wax or exactly when the baby’s coming, so I think I’ll just shave,” another would reply. One way or another, it was clear: We were all going to do something to prepare ourselves “down there” before we ended up in a delivery room, legs splayed out, in front of a medical team.
None of us knew then that shaving before labour is actually a no-no. Today, it’s common to find posters in your doctor’s office and plastered on hospital walls informing women that they shouldn’t shave their pubic hair beyond 36 weeks gestation. Recent research shows that it can increase the risk of infection for women who end up needing C-sections—and the last thing anyone needs after having a baby is a preventable infection.
The change in recommendation came about recently. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, which aimed to update research about hair removal and incidence of surgical site infection, significantly fewer infections occur with clipping, cream depilation or going au naturel than with shaving.
If you’ve heard the exact opposite—that you should shave before labour—that’s understandable because it used to be the recommendation. In fact, hospitals used to shave your pubic hair for you—and in some areas, they still do. “Shaving before labour was once thought to reduce infection rates,” says Toronto OB/GYN Dayna Freedman. But medical advice advances with research. “Randomized control trials have shown no decrease in infections with hair removal and, in fact, have shown a slight increase with shaving compared to clipping or waxing before procedures. Hospital infection control doesn’t recommend [shaving] at this time.”
Although I delivered my youngest son six years ago, I still remember how much my friends and I worried that we would be embarrassed if we weren’t properly groomed. It was probably a waste of our energy. The fact is, doctors don’t concern themselves with these matters. “The medical team is there to facilitate a safe delivery for both mother and child,” says Freedman. “We aren’t worried or thinking about the presentation of the patient’s perineum.” So don’t worry about being judged. Groom only if it’s important to you—just not with a razor.