Pregnancy is a magical experience and nothing short of a miracle. And in our quest to be prepared, many of us search far and wide for expert knowledge. We peruse the internet, read books, query our doctors endlessly, and of course, there is never a shortage of friends and families who want to share their advice or experiences (horror stories and all). What people are rarely talking about, however, is what happens to your body during and after delivery.
You may be surprised to learn that millions of women experience trauma or injury during the birthing process. More disturbing than the sheer number, (because let’s be honest, it doesn’t take a genius IQ to realize that labor and delivery is a very physical endeavor), is the fact that most women who experience residual pain or dysfunction often go undiagnosed or untreated. Even if women find the courage to seek help, they are often disappointed or discouraged when their doctors dismiss their concerns as a normal consequence of pregnancy or simply unfounded. As a result, many accept their symptoms as their new “norm” and have resolved to endure a life of pain or impairment.
CLICK HERE TO TAKE LEARN IF YOU HAVE A BIRTHING INJURY
I had a patient, Courtney, who was in this exact situation. After an uneventful pregnancy and delivery, Courtney knew something wasn’t quite right. She remembered hearing her friends joke about leaking urine when they sneezed or laughed, but she was leaking multiple times a day and was wearing a pad for protection. Her issues continued and she looked forward to her 6-week check-up to learn what was wrong. She was surprised when her OBGYN happily announced that she had “healed nicely” and she could resume all activities. Courtney was shocked but too embarrassed to say anything. After all, if the doctor said nothing was wrong, then this must be normal.
Another patient, Jessica, had no indication of pelvic floor issues after having her first child. She was cleared by her doctor to resume all physical activities, including intercourse. Jessica was looking forward to re-connecting with her husband, but she was not prepared for the pain. It was so painful, in fact, she couldn’t continue. She was confused and upset, not to mention too embarrassed to talk to her doctor about the pain.
Peggy was a patient I had more recently. Her recent birthing injury didn’t involve pelvic floor dysfunction. Rather, her particular birthing injury resulted in debilitating lower back pain. It became more severe over time and even impacted her ability to interact with her baby. When she asked her provider about it, Peggy was told that it was a normal part of being a new mother; it was probably from holding the baby. She was left in pain and frustrated.
The Facts about Postpartum Problems
These patients are not an anomaly. At the beginning of the last century, as many as 9 in 1,000 American women did not survive labor. Recent studies indicate a disturbing number of women still quietly endure bowel and bladder incontinence, painful sex, back aches, and crippling pelvic pain for years after giving birth due to undiagnosed and untreated childbirth injuries. In 2015 the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reported that 24% of women were still experiencing painful intercourse 18 months after having a baby. In 2016 the Journal PLoS One found that 77% of more than 1,500 mothers studied had constant back pain a year after birth, and 49% had urinary incontinence.
I have these conversations with people everyday. Maybe you’ve even joked about it with your friends. But pelvic floor dysfunction or post-partum back pain is not the “new normal” just because you’ve had a baby or you’re getting older. You do not have to “just live with it.” In fact, the longer you “live with it,” the worse it can get.
But guess what? These conditions are so common and treatable! With research based techniques that are drug-free and non-invasive.