Who's vagina is this? You might disrespect yourself and have no regard for your own body but actually just because I am a labouring woman doesn't mean I hand my vagina over to you willingly and easily.
I am writing this blog because I have learnt the beauty and functioning of my vagina through my pregnancies but I have unfortunately observed as a doula a complete lack of respect for women when health providers have had their fingers inserted into a woman's vagina through labour.
We don't willingly go round flaunting our lady bits and we most certainly don't willingly allow anyone to put their fingers up and if we do it's usually at times of intimacy or for pleasing oneself. However it seems that during pregnancy and birth we understand that a vaginal examination is likely and it's like the expectation is for us to hand ourselves over because we're having a baby, this is fine if we consent to this and so we go with this but that's when the complete lack of respect comes in. I'll be totally honest with all 4 of my pregnancies it was only with my 4th I knew I could say NO, or at least I held the control of if and when I would allow my health care provider to do it.
Women expecting to hand themselves over to one consultant for a VE and then again 5 minutes later to another is just utter madness. The worst is when the power position has changed because she's on the bed with her legs in stirrups. Listen I said No. That is strength from a woman to do that because the dynamics of power are definitely there.
The best one I've seen is a consultant at the foot of the bed with her fingers inside a labouring womans vagina and she is looking behind talking to the midwife, whispering. Really hello focus on her, talk to her, respect that she has handed the most sacred part of her body to you, for you to inform her what is happening inside her vagina within her labour, with her baby.
I mean if we talk about consent and power, how about this, health professional examining a mother in early labour, and health professional says "I'll give you a sweep" mum in a panic responds "no I don't want a sweep" HP says "what do you mean you don't want a sweep?" All this is while her fingers are still inside this woman's vagina as mum lies upon the bed. I mean wow, just wow, I couldn't believe what I was hearing and seeing. It was like a hostage situation of I'm holding you here until I consent you or gather further information about why you don't want me to sweep round your baby's head. Who has the power here? Do you then walk away realising what you have done?
As women I encourage you to be familiar with your vagina and what it means to you. It is a right of passage for your baby to enter into this world. It deserves respect, you deserve respect on every level. Consent should always be sought.
Perhaps to health professionals it is just another vagina, however this is her one and only. It matters. I mean it's my choice if I let you examine me, I give you consent - that shouldn't change the way you treat me.
Never be afraid to ask why they want to examine you, demand the respect you deserve, although it isn't always obvious to you. Vaginal examinations tell you what is happening at that time, and don't be disappointed if your health professional gets it wrong for example with dilation, this can happen. A lot of women don't know this but Always remember you can also check yourself.