For expectant parents experiencing the joys of pregnancy for the first time, every development is cause for a celebration. Ultrasound pictures, visible stirring in the womb and recorded fetal heartbeats all show the beauty of the new life that is developing. In many cases, the novelty of each aspect of infant growth often overshadows the mother’s accompanying tiredness and nausea that may seem to appear and disappear on a whim. As with the lesser-mentioned aspects of pregnancy that impact a mother’s body, so too can birth injuries influence the recovery of the mother.
When most people hear the phrase “birth injury,” their thoughts are focused on wounds suffered by the newly born. After all, the emphasis of the child birth is usually on the child and not the individual engaged in birthing the baby. New parents are not excluded from this perspective either. Those who have not participated in child birth may be cognizant of the signs of labor and the steps required to deliver a baby; after all, plenty of movies and television shows present the exhilaration and exhaustion of effort. The cameras fail to record what happens after the healthy newborn is whisked away to the hospital nursery when the mother confronts birth injuries she suffered during vaginal birth.
While the delivery of a child is an awe-inspiring event, it can be also a traumatic one for child and mother. If you have been following our blog, you are aware of types of injuries that may occur to the newborn. For some reason, social convention mutes the discussion on problems mothers experience as a result of pushing an infant with a large cranium and appendages through a small passage.
For women electing to deliver their children vaginally, 85 percent of them experience trauma to the perineal area, the area between the anus and the vulva. For those suffering trauma, 60 to 70 percent required stitches to reconnect tears in the area. If the tear is severe or undiagnosed, the mother can suffer for years. Knowledge of this type of injury, its symptoms and risk factors can prevent unnecessary pain and embarrassment.
These are several symptoms and risk factors associated with perineal tears:
While it is normal for women to experience incontinence and pain in the first weeks after the delivery, these problems should not continue long-term. Should incontinence of the flatus, feces or urine persist, it is possible that the mother is suffering from a birth injury. Such symptoms could indicate that the post-delivery suturing was not performed correctly or that pelvic floor muscles were damaged during the delivery.
In some cases, there are characteristics present in labor that correlate with the development of perineal tears: lengthy labor, deliveries requiring forceps or vacuum, or previous tears. When doctors notice these risk factors, they should can take preventative measures to limit the impact to the perineal area or spend the time to ensure the severity of the tear.
It may be uncomfortable to talk to a spouse, doctor or legal representative about perineal tears; however, this type of birth injury can have a long-term effect on incontinence, sexual intercourse and emotional health. Just as it is important for women to protect their health during pregnancy, promoting post-pregnancy health is imperative.