Firm the Floor for French Amour?

You knew I couldn’t pass this up: “Why France Pays for Postpartum Women to Re-Educate Their Vagina.”

Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Why, it’s an article on health care coverage that concerns firming up the pelvic floor for more, well… amour.

No, I’m not making this up. Et oui, I’m an ardent fan of All Good Things French – a great wine, a luxurious underthing, a fine perfume, a superb and irresistible man. And of course, the much-touted-of-late Parisian Parenting Lessons, as I’ve had beaucoup to say on that topic as well.

In fact, I used that opportunity to point out some of the differences in social structure between France and the U.S., notably, the aforementioned health care system which, apparently, is inclined to be supportive of the maternal sex life in a very, comment dirais-je, “hands on” capacity.

And shall we also keep in mind those reports on French women over 50 having more romantic encounters? If we as women feel better about ourselves, aren’t we more inclined to feel better about our most intimate relationships – and show it?

Make Love, Not Infidelity?

Aren’t love, parenting, health, and a healthy love life – even for mothers – all interrelated? Wouldn’t a healthy sex life between parents be good for families? So what, specifically, is this latest tidbit about?

While I first saw this news item in Time’s Healthland, it cites Claire Lundburg writing on Slate about a week ago, in a humorous recounting of her own French rééeducation of her Lady Parts. While she quips that this may be an attempt to reduce the likelihood that a new Papa would take a mistress, this amusing read offers the following:

According to Ms. Lundburg:

Rééducation périnéale gets scoffed at in American and Canadian publications as one of the most lurid examples of the indulgent French welfare state, but as far as I can tell, we do exactly nothing in the United States to help women get back into shape after giving birth.

Postpartum Love, American Style

The Time / Healthland article adds:

Six-week postpartum check-ups stateside are typically brief affairs where you may or may not be advised to remember to do your Kegels… they mark the end of regular obstetric visits that began shortly after pregnancy commenced. An entire year could easily go by between the postpartum farewell and the next appointment.

Ms. Lundburg also notes that despite the embarrassment of Hoo Hoo Helping sessions – either manual or electronic stimulation of affected pelvic floor muscles – she has experienced a variety of improvements in that area, which those of us who have given birth would recognize, pursing our, well, lips… and no doubt, nodding vigorously.

As for women who undergo C-sections, apparently there are other health care options to deal with the relaxed regions that result from l’arrivée du bébé. Can anyone say subsidized sit-ups in French?

Middle Ground for the Middle Mound?

All joking aside, might we find a middle ground?

Somewhere between the American way (“Seeya! Good luck!”) and formalized firming of the French floor to encourage ample and enthusiastic amour – something ought to assist women in understanding, addressing, and redressing the broad range of physical (and emotional) changes which may drag on following childbirth.

Something other than the latest book (or web site), or a girlfriend’s recommendations (and hesitations), based on her own experience.

Sex? Are You Kidding?

After all, even a few months after the event, most women aren’t looking to swing from the chandeliers with a spouse, or swing anywhere for that matter except perhaps in a little hammock on a small island with excellent spa services.

Okay. As I haven’t conducted a scientific study, let me rephrase. Every woman I’ve ever known in my life hasn’t been interested. Not until she’s fully healed, has a bit of sleep, and feels better about her body.

Postpartum? We’re dealing with fatigue, worry, and an assortment of aches, pains and other messy little reminders that our personal terrains including our nooks and crannies are no longer exactly our own. Sex isn’t a priority, though we know it is for the men we love. What we don’t necessarily realize at the time is that once the sexual connection is disrupted, for some of us, it’s a challenge to retrieve.

And Bébé Makes Three

The standard of a final visit to the OB/GYN six weeks after giving birth? The rapid “turnover” that takes place in the hospital, sending new mothers home just two or possibly three days after pushing out the petit or the slice-and-staple of a C-section? Tossing women back into the workforce six weeks after Baby Makes Three (or Four, or However Many)?

Frankly, I think we’re so used to this handling we don’t question it – just as we’re so used to beating ourselves up over our motherly maneuvers that we no longer question that. And there are reasons for both – including rushing back to work if we have work, paying for the little Prince or Princesse, and second-guessing everything we do as parents in our harried and competitive culture.

Culture and Common Sense

And it is a harried, competitive, contradictory, and increasingly unstable culture. Our sexual mixed messages are all over the map. Family members relocate (or commute) to wherever there may be work, for however long it lasts. We rush back to jobs (and work from home before we’re theoretically “allowed” to), so we don’t lose our jobs. We’re supposed to do it all, be it all, and look great in the process!

And as for pregnancy, if you believe that protections put in place decades ago assure you your position, think again. Also in Healthland, this article concerning pregnancy in the workplace spotlights the rise in pregnancy discrimination cases by some 35% in the past 10 years.

I can’t help but get the feeling at times that we’re walking backwards, blindly, a woman’s body still the social and political battlefield of men. (Or is that only an impression due to the GOP debates?)

French Attitudes on Health, Sex, Respect

I openly fess up to being an unabashed admirer of much in French culture – not everything mind you; no country is without its issues. But as I’ve said before, we could take a lesson from what other countries do well – from both personal and political standpoints.

The French health care system isn’t perfect, but it is less expensive, more accessible, and extends beyond what Americans see as typical options (including the French pharmacy system). And treating sexual relationships between adults like adults is part of the package.

And isn’t it common sense that healthy women whose bodies receive the respect and care they deserve are more likely to contribute in all the ways that are important? As engaged partners and parents, as well as in the workforce?


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© D. A. Wolf



  1. says

    Fricken amazing! The French really, really love their women folk. When you look at what is happening in Congress with the men-only review of contraception and health care stuff, ya gotta think that sometimes the French get it right.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      It does make you think, doesn’t it… (And best I recall, there’s no political-religious debate debacle over insurance companies covering Viagra…)

  2. Robert says

    I really have to agree with the French ideas of what is important to support socially.

    Along that line and also the comment on Viagra, perhaps two issues are really covered here – by improving the carrot the stick will take care of itself….

  3. says

    I read this article when it came out and thought, “You know, sometimes I really don’t mind the nanny state.” (I had the same reaction when I learned that the UK is revisiting their testing burdens for new prescription meds…)

    On a semi-related note, did you see that France is banning the use of “mademoiselle”? Apparently moving forward all women will be “madame” and marital status will not be included on government forms. I wonder, though, will “mademoiselle” still be used for little girls?

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Yes, I did read that, Gale, about “mademoiselle.” I like the idea of banning marital status from forms, but it will be interesting to see how many generations it takes for “Mademoiselle” to fall out of common usage. I’ve been called “Madame” in France since I was about 20 years old. It seemed more a sign of respect rather than any sort of assumption about marital status.

      Now, if only we could do away with the silliness of our variations of checkboxes on forms of all sorts, as pertains to marital status. There may be (assumed stereotypical and/or biased) reasons for some of them, but I doubt there’s any validity to their usage in most cases (as in single / married / widowed / divorced).

  4. says

    Oh, how I wish I had my youngest son in France! I remember my mid-wife saying how lucky I was that I had my son just after midnight because then I’d get almost an extra day at the hospital. And I thought, no. I just want to go home. Flash forward a couple hours when the meds wore off and I thought, they’re going to have to kick me out of here. Being waited on was heaven. And I knew that wasn’t going to happen once I got home. Yep. Sure wish I’d had him in France.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Yep. I got booted after long labor and a C-section after 2 days, and got the luxurious day and a half after my second son – not a C-section. (Hello? Pain? Lifting? Exhaustion? May we all use a Vulcan Mind Meld and transport ourselves to France. Oh wait. That was the Coneheads.) :)

  5. says

    Our health care system is barbaric. I was booted out of the hospital less than 24 hours after giving birth to my daughter. I didn’t have any pelvic floor issues, but I’ve heard horror stories about women who did…

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Barbaric fits, Pauline. I agree. In some instances (money-based?), more than others. And it’s the system, not the people. I think we need to separate the two, recognizing the role our political system plays in it – as well as where the money game sits.

  6. says

    When the only tool someone has is a stick, everything starts to look like an ass (or an opportunity for a trans-vaginal probe)… and while all carrots are sweet to start with, they grow big and firm inside mother earth (provided adequate moisture in the garden); thus taking optimal care of the fundamental floor regarding the flora of our fauna, from our lovely ladies to our Anima Mundi, should be a Vag of Honor for any enlightened culture.

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