Is your Gynecologist a Male?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Boston, MA, USA

Is Your Gynecologist a Male?

[This is also an episode of Friday Free Talk on The Tranquility Tribe Podcast on iTunes. Listen here.]
In this episode, I dive into the stigma that in order to be a good doula, you must have children yourself. I get down to the nitty gritty and pretty raw. 

A question that I sometimes hear is how I could possibly be so knowledgable on pregnancy, birth, and newborns without having my own children. It comes from parents in interviews who have failed to truly understand the support and role of a doula and sometimes it's straight from the mouths of other female birth professionals. Those same practitioners usually place so much weight on their own births and with this, their own birth experiences subtly overflow into their practice. I also realized that male professionals are not subject to this same standard or judgement bar. They are allowed to have never birthed a child, but also be competent to support others in birth. 

And cue the wheels in my head...

Every now and then, I will have a client ask about my own birth experience in an interview (often assuming I have children of my own). This is often a pivotal moment in the interview. This often solidifies whether that parent is my ideal client or not. I can usually confidently peg if they are the best fit for the TBH approach or if I should refer them elsewhere because I feel they may be better served by someone other than me.  That's right,  I often turn down clients who I don't think are the right fit for TBH. Many people don't realize that putting together your birth team should be an intentional process and I only want to be part of the birth teams that are perfectly crafted and well thought out so we set ourselves up to achieve our end goal. This team is here to help you achieve our ideal birth, and if I'm not the right fit for that position, I don't want to rob you of the possibility of the perfect support finding you. 

When You Know, You Know

Now that you better understand our method as an approach rather than doula services, you can understand how this might be hard to grasp. However, when the right client hears about our experience, that's game over. They know instantly. These are people who enjoy self-care, understand the importance of mental health, value the journey of pregnancy and recognize it as a time to shift your lifestyle temporarily, and that all of this is founded in mindset and knowing your options. 

So, About Your Gynecologist...

When someone brings this fact up that I have not had children, I always ask, "Do you have a male gynecologist?" For those who answer no, I ask them to imagine having one. I ask them how they think he can practice if he doesn't have a vagina... or a uterus, ovaries, cervix, or a menstrual cycle. Right. That seem so silly because some of the best gynecologists out there are male. There are female urologist, too, who are just as capable with the opposite reproductive system.

For those who answer yes, it's pretty self explanatory. You can see it all over their faces when they realize this double standard they have come face to face with. Their gynecologist has a penis so by fault of their previous question, one would conclude that their gynecologist doesn't meet the requirements to practice on their body. Like doctors, (and many other professions) my expertise comes from education and hands-on practice with everyday parents--parents of all walks of life and cultures and of different beliefs. It's great. It is so much fun constantly learning and actually learning things that are practical and useful to other parents. It's also allowed me this space to evolved into the multifaceted practitioner I am today.

Maybe We Aren't The Best Fit. 
That's right, I've had to say this to clients before. I'm not sure I am the best fit for your birth experience. Having people in your birth room who don't jive 100% with you can really throw off the energy of the room. If this is you, then you may want to reevaluate hour team. I recognize and respect the fact that I can not be everyone's doula. I don't want to be everyone's doula. Not everyone will be motivated by the TBH approach and not everyone will believe in the benefits and that's okay

Bottom Line: BE SELFISH. 

Putting your birth team together should be selfish and you shouldn't expect anything less than perfect. You will have an idea of your perfect birth experience and I believe there is support out there to help you achieve that. It may not be me and that's okay, too. People need different means of support and I can only do so much. The great news is that you have options (I know, imagine that, right?). There is someone out there that specializes in the specific type of support you want or need. Ask people for resources. We have resources of all kinds. Connect with us and let us know what kind of support you are looking for! 

If you believe that in order to be the perfect birth support, your doula needs to have already had kids, then we are not the perfect match. If you believe in self-care, the importance of mental health, want to know your choices and be educated on what's happening to your body during birth, then we might be a great team. 

Tranquility by HeHe, A Maternity Concierge, Birthing and Doula Service in Boston, Massachusetts
"We can't wait to pamper you."

Vagina Whispering: Everyone's Doing It

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Boston, MA, USA

Meet The Vagina Whisperer

[This is also an episode of Friday Free Talk on The Tranquility Tribe Podcast on iTunes. Listen here.]

Hey Tranquility Tribe!  I’m so excited to bring you this episode of the Tranquility Tribe podcast!  Today, Hehe talked to Sara Reardon, also known as the Vagina Whisperer.  As you may be able to guess from her nickname, Sara is an expert in all things vagina, which means that this episode is full of super essential and often understated topics!

Who is the Vagina Whisperer?

Sara Reardon is a physical therapist who currently practices in New Orleans.  She specializes in men and women’s pelvic floor health, and she is passionate about speaking up when it comes to treatment and prevention of pelvic health issues.  By bringing humor to the often sensitive topic of staying healthy “down there,” Sara helps to unpack countless vagina-related topics that many women have experience with but few are comfortable talking about. 

In addition to being a physical therapist and a vocal advocate for pelvic floor health, Sara is also the mother of two boys (ages one and two).  Sara did not always know that she was interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy for the pelvic floor; when she was at Washington University in St. Louis for grad school, she was actually planning on becoming a physical therapist for athletes.  However, thanks to a professor and mentor who inspired her to do a clinical rotation in women’s health, Sara discovered the importance of supporting the pelvic floor and especially enjoys being able to help both men and women with health problems that they might find embarrassing but that are completely normal to deal with.  

After grad school, Sara decided to move to Austin rather than return home, as her hometown was still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.  In Austin, she worked in a clinic that was specifically focused on men and women’s pelvic health, and she has been involved in that field ever since.  Sara’s work even expands beyond the office, as she has friends and family members who ask her questions about pelvic health that they are too self-conscious to ask anyone else.  Sara’s eagerness to spread her knowledge and her willingness to help others inspired her friends to give her her nickname, the Vagina Whisperer.

So what’s the big deal about pelvic health?

Many people don’t feel comfortable talking about problems that they may be having “down there.”  For some reason, the pelvis and its associated areas and functions are normally taboo topics, causing people to feel uncomfortable or alone when they struggle with pelvic health issues.  But as Sara says, the vagina is just another part of the body and there’s nothing wrong with talking about it!  By being confident and open about the subject of pelvic health, both Sara and Hehe try to build trust with others so that they can encourage them to open up about problems they might be having, which is essential to enable them to get the help that they need and to make sure that they realize they aren’t the only ones.  Sara says she has gained a lot from being pregnant and becoming a mom, which has helped her relate to her patients in a way that she was previously unable to. 

Getting down to business

There are many highly-disputed approaches to supporting pelvic floor health, especially in the birth world.  It can be overwhelming and confusing to sort through conflicting viewpoints at a time when you are just trying to do the best that you can for you and your tiny human!  Sara provides her opinion on the best ways for you to support and strengthen your vag, both pre- and postnatally. 

Let’s start with maternity belts!  According to Sara, maternity belts can be very helpful during pregnancy.  Your body goes through widespread changes while you’re growing a tiny human – your joints relax and your abdomen expands, which can cause a lot of discomfort.  But pain during pregnancy should not be a normalcy!  Maternity bands can help provide support to your abdomen and back while your body is working hard to grow your new little one so that these changes can be less painful.  They can also help you to stay more active throughout your pregnancy, which leads to a better birth experience and faster labor.  However, exercising and being active during pregnancy means something different to every mom, so it is important to surround yourself with a strong birth team (such as people like Hehe and Sara) that can collaborate to help you make the best decisions for YOU and make your pregnancy as amazing as it can be. 

Now what about perineum massages?  The research on their benefit is mixed, so it is helpful to learn about it as an option and decide if it works for you.  Perineum massages can be great to help prepare the vaginal tissue for birth by desensitizing the tissue, which can help you get used to some of the sensations you will experience during your birth.  On top of that, massages can help you feel more connected with what is going on in that area.  This is especially important during pregnancy, when all the changes that you’ve experienced can make it seem like your body doesn’t belong to you anymore.  Sara and Hehe recommend beginning perineum massages around 34-35 weeks so that you can be sure to become comfortable with and gain benefits from them before your birth.  And if you try it and don’t like it, that’s totally fine too!  It’s your pregnancy, so it should be done the way that you want it to.

The pelvic floor undergoes a lot during pregnancy, but there are many different preventative actions that you can do to avoid too much damage.  And these prevention strategies are becoming increasingly common as the birth world is focusing more on the benefits that preventative care can bring!  Having support people like doulas and physical therapists on your birth team can help you learn about all of your resources and get experienced advice throughout your pregnancy and birth.  Being an active patient and seeking out resources that will support you can help you stay connected and make your pregnancy and birth experience as positive as possible. 

Sara’s advice postpartum

The “fourth trimester” is a time during which you adjust to life with a tiny human and help your body recover from the amazing feat it just accomplished, and it’s especially important to actively support your body through these months.  According to Sara, the number one thing that you can do for your body postpartum is to rest.  Allow yourself the time that you need to heal and learn about your post-pregnancy body.  Sara also recommends diaphragmatic breathing, breathing deeply with your diaphragm to help quiet your nervous system and relax your stomach and pelvic floor.  And as for kegels, Sara says she supports them as long as they are done properly.  Kegels can be very useful in strengthening the pelvic floor after pregnancy, but if they aren’t done at the right time using the right muscles, they can cause more harm than good. 

It’s normal to experience a lot of healing during the time right after your birth, but if a particular problem isn’t getting better or you feel like something is wrong, it’s important to seek support.  Being an active patient and receiving the help that you need early on can help you prevent issues from getting worse and can provide you with peace of mind that you are doing everything you can for your body.  And problems can arise even a year after pregnancy, so don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and get help if you feel that something isn’t right.  As Hehe always says, trust the process, respect your body.  Or, as Sara puts it, trust your body!

If you would like to learn more about Sara’s work and hear even more in-depth ways to support your pelvic health, check out her website at

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The Tranquility Tribe Podcast, and follow us on Instagram at @tranquilitybyhehe!

"Welcome to the Tranquility Tribe"

Written by our Guest Blogger, Kyra Shreeve. She is a Biochemistry, Health Policy, and Music student at Brandeis University. 

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