Photo by RODOLFO BARRETO on Unsplash
This article first appeared on SHE'SAID' and has been republished with permission.
The notion of a midwife brings childbirth to mind, but did you know that midwives actually provide care for women at every stage of their life, just like an OB-GYN? And being proactive about your gynecological health is a must for feeling empowered in your own body and taking care of yourself — whether you’re pregnant or not.
“A primary difference between OB/GYNs and midwives is that OB/GYNs perform surgery and other medical procedures and interventions when problems arise,” explains Heather Sevcik, a Board Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) with Baby+Co, a network for women that provides prenatal care, classes, and support groups. But while midwives may not perform surgery, they bring an important tool into the patient-provider relationship: “Midwives are often drawn to the profession because of a deep compassion for women,” says Sevcik. And who couldn’t use an extra dose of kindness and understanding when it comes to their well-being? Whether you’re talking about issues such as experiencing pain during intercourse, or wondering what the heck is going on with your vagina, consider connecting with a midwife as opposed to a general practitioner or OB-GYN.
I did an informal poll of my friends to find out what they’d most like to ask a midwife; Sevcik answers those burning (and possibly itching, or unusually heavy) questions with lots of empathy and zero judgment.
1. Do I need to be pregnant (or trying to be pregnant) to see a midwife?
Nope. “We care for women at all stages of life, from puberty to post-menopause,” says Sevcik.
2. Can I go see my midwife when I have my period?
“Yes, of course,” Sevcik says, surprising me. (For my entire adult life, I’ve thought that if you have your period, you can’t go in for an exam!) “A midwife isn’t going to be grossed out by your period. Unless it’s the heaviest day, most tests can still be done when you have your period. In fact, certain things — like getting an IUD inserted — are actually better to do when you’re on your period.”
3. What if I haven’t, um, groomed down there for a while? Should I shave or wax before an appointment?
“No, of course not!” Sevcik assures. “We’ve literally seen everything.”
You Might Also Like: To The Mommas Whose Births I Have Had The Honor Of Witnessing
4. Do all vaginas look the same? Or are they all different?
You only have to look at photographs of different vaginas to confirm what Sevcik praises as a “beautiful array” with “so much diversity.” Do you know what your vagina looks like? Do you appreciate it?
5. What if I’ve had kids? Does my vagina look weird?
Women who worry that their vagina is screaming out, “Look at me! I’m all stretched out and weird after giving birth!” can now relax. “It may not look the same to you after multiple kids, but I can’t look at somebody’s external genitalia and tell if someone has had a baby or not,” Sevcik explains, adding that “Everyone looks different. I can look at a cervix and tell.”
6. Will my midwife be grossed out by the way my vagina smells?
This is a big concern for many women, but Sevcik says not at all: “We are used to smells as part of our job, and a woman’s smell is totally normal! Most people think they smell worse than they do. If you have had a change in smell and do think that the odor is worsening, we are here to help you.”
7. What about discharge? Will that gross my midwife out?
Okay, you need to stop worrying that your midwife is going to be grossed out by you. “First of all, discharge is normal, because your vagina is a self-cleansing organ and it will vary at different times in your cycle,” Sevcik points out. “If your discharge concerns you, or has developed a foul odor, or is associated with pelvic pain, we want to see you because we can diagnose or treat what is happening. And we are never grossed out.”
8. Is my midwife judging me when I talk about my number of sexual partners, or questionable judgment calls I’ve made about partners, practicing safer sex, etc.?
Sadly, some women aren’t forthcoming about symptoms or concerns at their appointments because they’re afraid of what their provider will think, but Sevcik urges patients to open up. “We’ve heard it all,” she says. You should be able to be honest and upfront without worrying about being judged.
9. How can I tell when I’m ovulating?
There are different ways to track your fertility, such as ovulation kits you can buy over the counter, or using an app. But you can also track it on your own: “One of the best signs to watch for is your discharge — when you’re ovulating, it gets very slippery, like egg whites,” advises Sevcik. “That’s considered fertile mucus. Some women feel a little one sided pain or ache on the days they’re ovulating. Other people take their temperature every day, which isn’t so much a way to tell when you’re ovulating as when you’re not ovulating. Tracking all of these things over the course of a few months helps you narrow the window.”
10. Should I ask my midwife about pain during sex, painful periods, and/or difficulty having an orgasm?
Maybe you’re worried it’s not as important or on-topic as testing for STDs or discussing pregnancy, but the answer is an emphatic Yes. “You shouldn’t suffer in silence with any of that stuff,” maintains Sevcik. “It’s what we’re here to do. Often there are non-medical, non-surgical ways that any of those issues can be treated. And sometimes, you just need more lube.”
More From SHE'SAID':