Dear Dr. Kate,
Do gynecologists care whether or not your pubic hair is trimmed or au natural? I’m one of those women who likes (and luckily whose husband likes) to go au natural, but I know I’m in the minority these days. So every time I have an ob/gyn appointment I can’t help but wonder if I should apologize or at least warn her. I think it’s polite (indeed necessary) to shower before a gyno appointment, but do some doctors consider pubic hair maintenance a polite and much appreciated gesture before a visit?
— Polite Patient
I’m so glad you asked — we SO don’t care! Yes, a shower is greatly appreciated (and you should avoid vaginal/vulvar creams and powders before an exam), but how you keep your hair does not matter at all. In fact, many gynos are against full waxing/shaving, because of the skin problems that result, e.g. folliculitis that looks like herpes and can become infected. So wear your hair as you feel comfortable, and don’t apologize or feel badly at all.
— Dr. Kate
Editor’s note: A reader, Madamoiselle L, posted this on our site recently: “It was found, in scientific studies, that a shaved pubis is actually MORE bacterially contaminated, and MORE likely to result in a post partum infection. It appears that the hair not only protects the vagina, urethra and perineum and even the uterus against bacterial invasion, but the actual ACT of shaving opens “micro cuts” which allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream directly. For years (I am a nurse, post partum) we saw virtually NO post partum infections, the rate dropped significantly when women stopped being shaved before childbirth. In the last decade or so, the rate of post partum infection is on the rise. Why? Younger women are more likely to shave, and it really DOES promote bacterial contamination, both on the surface of the skin, in the folds of the labia (which then go into the orifices) and especially due to bacteria entering via “micro cuts.”
Dr. Kate responds: I believe that the studies she’s referring to look at patients having surgery — and yes, shaving does increase the risk of post-operative skin infections at the site of the incision. In fact, we’re not shaving anyone going into surgery anymore — if the hair is really long, we clip it instead of shaving. Definitely worth bearing in mind here.
Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.