Physical trauma may or may not be identified immediately. Indeed, you may be the first to notice something isn’t right. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. On this page we will cover the following information relating to physical birth trauma
The signs and symptoms of physical birth trauma The potential effects Treatment Options Accessing Care
Sweating, shaking, headaches, dizziness, gastro intestinal upsets and chest pains not connected with medical conditions
Continuing pain around the site of the episiotomy or tear in the perineum (between vagina and anus) after birth
Urinary or faecal incontinence
Difficulty opening and emptying bowels
Pain or difficulty having sex
Constant lower back pain
Awareness of a bulge or lump at the vaginal opening
A dragging feeling in the pelvis or a sense that something is ‘falling out’ – this symptom may be increased by standing, lifting, tiredness or at period time
Vaginal or pelvic floor muscle laxity
It is important to understand that physical injuries resulting from birth trauma may include damage to the pelvic floor or perineal area and require expert medical advice and assessment.
Many women (90%) experience tears to some extent during childbirth as the baby stretches the vagina, especially with the first baby. Most tears occur in the perineum, the area between the vaginal opening and the anus (back passage). They are usually graded by ‘degrees’ and you may hear the terms ‘first, second degree tear’. Here is a brief overview of perineal tears with a link to more information if you need. Find out more here.
The pelvic floor muscles are sometimes likened to a ‘stretched trampoline’ that runs from the tailbone (coccyx) to the pubic bone from front to back, and between the two ‘sit bones’ from side to side. In everyday life they support the organs of the pelvis (bladder, uterus, and bowel) and are able to relax and contract when needed. However, because of their position in the pelvis, they play a major role in childbirth. Find out more
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is not uncommon although many women haven’t heard of the condition prior to experiencing it. Prolapse is a hernia of pelvic organs through the opening in the pelvic floor muscle. It is harmless but can cause frustrating symptoms. Keeping it simple, it is when an organ (or organs) such as the bladder, uterus or bowel loses some of its support and moves downwards through the vagina. Find out more
Your first step for accessing care could be: speaking to your GP, midwife or obstetrician; or you may want to see a specialist women’s health (pelvic floor) physiotherapist. Pelvic health physiotherapists have been specifically trained in the field of pelvic floor health. If you require multiple visits you may qualify for a GP care plan.
Due to the complexity of pelvic floor dysfunction, finding a team of trusted health professionals is a crucial component to your journey. Whilst health professionals may work with postpartum women, they aren’t always trained to deal with this type of physical trauma. As a result, we strongly suggest that if you feel something isn’t working for you then seek a second opinion; in fact even if it feels right, you may still wish to seek a second opinion. This is why our private Facebook forum is a useful resource as you can ask questions of “real” women who have experienced similar problems to assist with your own individual journey.
If you are experiencing any physical symptoms in the first 6 weeks, you may wish to approach a larger hospital and find out the types of support they offer.You may also be symptomless and still have physical trauma to the pelvic floor. More often than not such trauma isn’t identified as it is sometimes not visible to the eye, or because doctors and midwives don’t look closely enough. For example, you will typically be told if your perineum (that is, the outside) tears, but types of damage may happen underneath the skin or in the vagina and may not be noticed.