Monday, August 22, 2011

French healthcare experience #5: Re-education

One major difference between post-partum care in the US and France has been the post-partum care for my lady parts. Note: while I tried not to be too graphic with this post, there are somethings I couldn't help so read with caution if you are sensitive to these kinds of things. And, no, there are no pictures.

Starting during my pregnancy, several of my friends told me that the French are quite interested in making sure women get their parts back in shape after birth. And the way they do this is through "re-education" therapy (yes, that it actually what it is called). Jokingly, my friends said it was because of the French obsession with beauty and sex. And, in fact, the mid-wives at the hospital told me that it would be ok to resume sex as soon as the stitches healed - in about 2 weeks - but that I should not do cardiovascular exercise until after finishing my re-education. Which is definitely different than the medical advice I got in the US which said to wait at least 6-weeks before doing either. As for the official reasoning I was given behind re-educations, the doctors and midwives told me it's to prevent incontinence. Either way, both sounded like good reasons. But, oh boy, I knew this was going to be an experience.

Re-education is basically electro-stimulation therapy for your vaginal muscles. When I saw my OB for my 6-week post-partum appointment, she even said, "the stitches healed nicely, now lets get you a prescription for the re-education. And you will want to start that soon." Maybe I should have vajazzled before going in to see her. She made me feel a bit self-conscious (more self-conscious then usual, anyway). So, my first session was last week with my mid-wife, 9-weeks post-partum. For twenty minutes, I was made to lay down on an exam table with a vibrator-like instrument inserted between my legs that is then attached by wire to a computer. I was given a prescription for the thing so it is mine to carry around with me to and from the mid-wife's office for each of the 10 sessions that I was prescribed.

If anyone has ever had electro-stim therapy as part of rehab for an injury, you can imagine what this is like. Once the contraption is hooked up to the computer, the mid-wife starts one of several different programs of electric impulses. The programs vary on intensity and duration of the pulses. The purpose being to cause the muscles to contract and, therefore, strengthen. And all of this with both kids in the room. Owen was eating his snack and playing with cars. Zack was nursing during the first session and hanging out in his carseat during the second, smiling at me as I made faces with each shock. Let me state for the record, I have now had 2 sessions and I would not call this an enjoyable experience. In fact, I would actually describe the second session as painful. And 4 days later, I am still a bit sore. But, since I am not the most dedicated kegel-ist and the alternative, according to my mid-wife, is that I risk peeing my pants every time I sneeze, I will continue the rest of my sessions.

One funny thing was that my mid-wife seemed genuinely shocked that they don't do this therapy in the US. And, she seemed sort of proud that the French were "more advanced" than the Americans in taking care of women after childbirth. I do have to say that this is just another example that I have come across of the French being much more supportive of preventive care and, especially, in regards to women's health. Which sort of amazes me given how paternalistic French society still is.


  1. Fascinating! Sound like quite an experience. Good luck :-)

  2. My first thought was "holy cow, no way." My second thought was maybe Depends (TM) has a really good lobbyist for the American Medical Association. But seriously, I am dying to ask midwife friends back in the U.S. what they think of this practice. Thanks for sharing!

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