Few women who go through natural childbirth would say the first time around is a walk in the park. Most men brave enough to even witness the process would probably be quick to agree. And now new research indicates just how significantly traumatic childbirth can be for some women.
The work by a group at the University of Michigan started with the premise that the physical demands of childbirth on the body could easily be likened to the stresses encountered by someone who participates in an endurance sport like long-distance running.
They noted that when such athletes suffer injuries, the typical medical practice is to subject them to magnetic resonance imaging to really get a clear picture of how bad an injury might be. So the researchers applied that technique to a group of 68 women who had been identified as being high-risk patients for birth-related injuries. These women had endured either a long pushing phase during delivery or were older.
What the MRIs found was that 25 percent of the women had suffered what amounted to stress fractures to their pelvic bones. Two thirds of them sustained injuries similar to severe muscle strain. The pelvic muscle in 41 percent of the women tore, detaching either partially or completely from the pubic bone.
From all of this the researcher conclude that each woman endures the process differently and that doctors need to adjust their approach to postpartum care to make sure each patient gets care according to their specific need.
Right now, it is common for new mothers to be told they can resume normal life activities at the six-week post-delivery checkup. But the researchers say that time frame was basically pulled out of thin air. Reality is that healing can take much longer and the authors say that if new mothers are experiencing unexplained pain for too long after a birth, doctors should consider employing the specialized MRI scans to get a better picture of possible pelvic injuries.
If nothing else, this is a strong reminder that birth injuries are serious and that mothers and children alike can suffer as a result.