Women should embrace pregnancy for the incredible thing that it is

Keeley Bolger on a new book that deals with pregnancy.

FROM tales of agonised pushing to unbearable pain, the chances are every pregnant woman will hear at least one — often unwanted — birth horror story.

Midwife Clemmie Hooper is acutely aware of how off-putting this can be.

In her first book, How To Grow A Baby And Push It Out, she addresses common anxieties around pregnancy and birth in a big sisterly style, backed up with the experience her career has brought her.

Here, she shares her advice on how to cope with the most common bodily anxieties during pregnancy:

Your body might change in surprising ways: “Your tummy might get hairier. It’s a hormonal thing. Your belly button goes flat as your tummy gets bigger and it might pop out. But again, think about what’s happening to your skin. Your skin is incredible. It’s stretching to allow this baby to grow.

“You might get stretch marks. You might not. You feel differently about your body after having a baby. I’ve had four children, of course my body doesn’t look how it did. I’m alright with it because I’m just proud of what my body did. 

"Try and embrace it. It’s a short period of time you’re pregnant and then afterwards, your body changes again and is ready to feed a baby. Women are incredible.”

It’s OK to feel nervous about massaging your perineum: “No one’s going to make you do it, so if it’s just not for you, fine. But I would say it’s probably a good idea to think about it.

"There is evidence to suggest massaging does reduce tearing. If you’re in the bath or shower, just have a feel of that piece of skin with your thumbs — about 2-3cm into your vagina — because that’s the bit that has to stretch to allow the baby’s head to come out.”

Your vagina might look different: “In your pregnancy, your vagina often looks a bit darker on the outside and the pigment changes, as do your nipples. After labour, I always advise women who are worried that their vagina looks different to speak to their midwives.

“Don’t think there’s something wrong with you because nine times out of 10, there isn’t. It’s normal. It’s just that people aren’t talking about it.”

Yes, you will probably poo yourself during labour: “Pooing during labour is really common. There are bigger and more important things that happen or can happen in labour than a poo. If you do a poo, we just wipe it and chuck it away.

"I do think that women hold back pushing because they’re worried about doing a poo. Just go for it because if you poo when you push, you’re pushing in the right way.”


It can be helpful to share your concerns: “There’s some really bad terminology knocking around. People say: “Does it [my vagina] look like a chewed up piece of meat?”

"This can affect you when you have sex or go to the loo or even [put you off] having another baby. One woman was so worried about her stitches that I asked her for a handheld mirror and said we’ll look together and I’ll talk you through it.

"I showed her everything and pointed where the stitches were and she was like: ‘It looks fine’. Women worry more about what it will look like from the outside because you can’t really see the inside of your vagina, but actually, it hasn’t changed that much.”

How To Grow A Baby And Push It Out by Clemmie Hooper; Vermilion, €20.99


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