In 100% of cases, the need to consult a pediatrician is a direct result of sexual activity. New parents see the pediatrician FAR more than they see any other professional (medical or otherwise) in the first year after the delivery of a child.
New parents navigate a seismic shift in their lives that we, as a medical community, do a terrible job of preparing them for. In the postpartum period, it’s incredibly common for people to struggle with hormone fluctuations, lack of sleep, insecurity related to body image, pressure to breastfeed and postpartum depression. Yet parents are largely abandoned after the initial excitement of a new baby wears off.
In my experience training in obstetrics/gynecology and pediatrics, most people see the physician who delivered the baby 6 weeks postpartum. And there’s rarely a formal screening process or even time in the clinic to ask how new parents are coping with the massive life change they’re experiencing. As a pediatrician, I see families at birth, 2 days, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months and 12 months. If the baby or parents have medical reasons to be seen more often, I see them as often as is necessary.
As a housecall pediatrician, I see families in the comfort of their homes for up to an hour. As opposed to 10 minutes in the crowded clinic I used to work in. During housecalls, my first question is always how the mother is doing. How is she feeling? How is her body healing? How is nursing going (if she’s chosen to breastfeed)? Is she able to get some sleep, a shower and a walk?
Having the time and private space to ask these questions has made it clear to me that I’m probably the only one asking. Over the course of the last year and a half that I’ve built Village Pediatrics, I’ve discovered a phenomenal community of like minded women who care for parents during this special but challenging time. Pelvic floor physical therapy is becoming more accessible. Midwives and postpartum doulas offer ongoing care following delivery that is not available in most physicians’ offices. These services can ease the physical and emotional transition into parenthood but many people aren’t aware that they exist. I’d like to use my voice to raise awareness.
Aside from the obvious connection between human sexuality and parenting, it’s clear to me that my medical credentials uniquely position me to talk about human sexuality as a physical and mental health issue. As a society, we have historically put this topic in a black box of shame and silence. As a result, we have vast numbers of people who are victims of violence, coercion and sexual assault.
There are important conversations that need to take place around bodily autonomy and consent. But the taboo nature of this conversation robs people of the language and communication skills to advocate for themselves and express their boundaries.
As a physician, I’m as comfortable talking about non-traditional relationships and kink as I am talking about prevention and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s). I use accurate anatomic terminology to describe sexual activity so that people can develop the language to negotiate exploration with their partner(s).
Marriages and other romantic relationships regularly fracture as a result of sexual incompatibility. This lack of connection and intimacy can lead to countless physical and mental health problems: depression, resentment, substance abuse, infidelity, lack of attention to exercise, poor diet, and “letting oneself go”. It’s generally understood that we take better care of ourselves when we want others to find us sexually desirable. Again, the intersection between human sexuality and overall health couldn’t be more clear. The question is how do we find the courage to acknowledge and talk about it.
** This post was authored by Dr. Amber Hull without the use of AI technology.**