New Study Reveals Moms Rival Athletes During Childbirth
There’s never been any doubt that giving birth, while a wondrous event, is one of the toughest experiences the human body endures. Now, a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows that some women actually sustain injuries similar to those of athletes during delivery.
When researchers at the University of Michigan studied the MRIs of new mothers, they discovered that one-quarter of the women had fluid in the pubic bone marrow or experienced fractures similar to a sports-related stress fracture, and two-thirds showed excess fluid in the muscle—a sign of injury similar to a severe muscle strain. And 41% sustained pelvic muscle tears, with the muscle detaching partially or fully from the pubic bone.
These findings are important for new moms who are still in pain or suffering from bladder issues by their six-week postpartum checkup, says Kelly Kasper, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Indiana University Health. “Most women will feel some discomfort for about a week after giving birth, particularly if it’s their first child,” she says. “It may be uncomfortable to sit or stand for long periods, for example, and some may need pain medication.” (By the second or third child, recovery is generally easier and happens faster because the pelvic tissues were already stretched from the first delivery.) Slight incontinence may also be an issue, but Dr. Kasper stresses this is also normal due to changes to the pelvic floor.
What isn’t normal, however, is significant incontinence (more than a few drops) and pain that’s still present at six weeks postpartum. “These are symptoms you must share with your doctor because they may indicate a pelvic muscle tear or pelvic organ prolapse, which occurs when the muscles that hold your pelvic organs in place become weak or stretched,” says Dr. Kasper. In those cases, surgery may be necessary. (If a stress fracture is the cause of your pain, it will heal on its own.)
The good news is that these types of injuries aren’t very common; the authors and Dr. Kasper note that the women studied were those at high risk of muscle tears. Those most prone to these injuries include moms-to-be who are carrying large babies (which is sometimes the result of gestational diabetes), since delivery can be more difficult in those cases. “Any mom who has to push for a long time, or who requires tools such as a vacuum or suction to deliver the baby, is also at greater risk,” says Dr. Kasper.
-- By Jessica Brown