ASHLEY James has bravely spoken out about the harsh realities of childbirth – including fears she had “ruined” herself.
The 34-year-old gave birth to her son Alfie eight months ago and struggled with a series of physical side effects – from faecal incontinence to stitches, prolapse and piles.
Discussing her personal experience on Let’s Be Honest, an IGTV series hosted by My Expert Midwife, the former Made In Chelsea star revealed: “When I was talking about recovery, I had stitches, piles, incontinence, everyone was like TMI.
"I remember one friend was like ‘does Tommy (her boyfriend) not mind’, especially because I had faecal incontinence.
“It made me feel like I was being treated like there was something wrong with me for the man. Like 'oh poor Tommy he’s having to put up with this, does he still fancy you?'
"I remember being quite cross. Tommy’s just really grateful that I’ve gone through childbirth and given him a healthy son. Tommy just wants me to be okay.”
“There shouldn’t be shame… I’m not a dirty little secret and my childbirth recovery is not a dirty little secret. Psychologically, it’s quite a challenge to get over because there were times when I was like am I ruined, am I damaged? Is this it now?”
During labour, Ashley experienced perineal tearing, which is an injury to the tissue around the vagina and rectum. These tears happen spontaneously as the baby stretches the vagina and the perineum during birth.
Up to 9 in every 10 first time mothers who have a vaginal birth will experience some sort of tear, graze or episiotomy.
Not surprisngly sex was the last thing on her mind – but Ashley, who gave birth on lockdown, was shocked to discover she was being quizzed about contraception when she went for her first check up after giving birth.
She said: “When I went for my six week check it was very much Alf being checked over and a quick “how are you mentally and do you know about contraception”.
“I was like contraception? I am shitting myself; I think that will do it. How can you be asking me about contraception when I’ve got stitches that I’m scared to even check with my hands because it is a sensitive part of the body.
"Ask me in a year how I feel about contraception. There is so much more going on psychologically and physically than sex right now.”
Ashley is backing My Expert Midwife’s #KnowYourBits campaign to raise awareness of how pregnancy and childbirth can affect our ‘bits’.
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