Cultural and societal norms around beauty and pubic hair often cause body image shame and embarrassment if we choose not to shave or wax. Patients often ask their doctor if they should shave before an appointment and apologize to the midwife for having hair "in the way". When it comes to birth, one of the most intimate and vulnerable times in our lives when our bodies are shifting and changing dramatically, there can be lots of anxiety around pubic hair grooming. Do you need to shave your pubic hair before your birth? NO. Here's why.
Although pubic shaving (and enemas) were a common medical practice for birth years ago, there is no medical reasoning for shaving your pubic hair.
"Pubic hair serves a purpose. It decreases friction, helps protect the skin, affects local temperature, and is intertwined with our dermal microbiome, influencing the balance of helpful and harmful bacteria on our skin. As our skin is our largest immune system organ, pubic hair plays a significant role in our immunity." - Mai Heath, ND, BA (Hons), Birth Doula, HBCE.
While there are benefits to pubic shaving such as preventing infection of a c-section incision, which your care provider will take care of if/when the time comes, a Cochrane review of medical studies on pubic shaving and birth found no evidence that removing pubic hair ahead of delivery reduces risk of infection during birth.
When it comes to an episiotomy or perineal tearing, an episiotomy will not likely necessitate pubic hair removal. However, for women who would like to deliver vaginally, working prenatally to have a healthy, supported perineum is best to prevent tearing and surgical births, and episiotomies are less likely to be necessary. And if you need stitches, your care provider has no trouble at all in doing so if you have pubic hair.
As Mai Heath said: "More consideration should be given to social pressures and expectations that may encroach on women’s health issues and prey on ignorance. This will be a gradual transition, much like recent social change movements around body-type bias, public breastfeeding, defamation due to presumed promiscuity, etc. Social discussion should focus on the pervasive notion that the vagina is inherently unsightly and unhygienic."