New Medibank research has revealed injuries and conditions as a result of vaginal childbirth are very common. And while the majority of these health outcomes are perfectly normal and resolve themselves in time, it’s important to know if your symptoms suggest something that may require medical attention. Here are some of the most common injuries and conditions experienced by women post-childbirth.
- Perineal tear: A tear of the skin and/or muscle, usually between the vaginal opening and anus. These tears can vary in severity, from mild (1st degree tear) to moderate (2nd degree tear) and severe (3rd and 4th degree tear).
- Haemmorhoids: These are varicose veins of the rectum and anus — commonly seen following a vaginal birth where there has been added pressure on the bowels.
- Damage to the pelvic floor: The pelvic floor muscles control the bowel, bladder and uterus. When these are weakened from a vaginal childbirth, internal organs may no longer be supported which could result in symptoms such as accidental urine leakage, reduced sensation in the vagina and backaches.
- Urinary incontinence: This is the involuntary loss of urine from the bladder. People with this condition may simply experience a small leak due to laughing or coughing, while others may completely empty their bladder.
- Rectal incontinence: Similar to urinary incontinence, rectal incontinence is uncontrollable leakage from the bowel. For women, this condition may be caused by weakened back passage muscles as a result of childbirth.
- Pelvic organ prolapse: Your pelvic organs are held in place by connective tissue. When this tissue is damaged from a traumatic or prolonged vaginal childbirth, and your pelvic floor muscles are weakened, these organs are at risk of sagging down into the vagina.
- Fistula: This is when a hole develops between the vaginal wall and the rectum or bladder, causing urinary and/or rectal incontinence. This may occur when a woman experiences a prolonged obstructed labour.
How common are these injuries and who is most at risk?
While many women report experiencing one or more of these injuries and conditions, rest assured — they’re usually not long-lasting and can be treated by a medical professional. If you think you may be living with a childbirth-related injury and need support, speak with your doctor. If you are a Medibank member, you can also call 1800 644 325 to speak to a Medibank nurse — available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.