What You Need To Know About Birth Injuries
6-8 out of every 1000 babies are born with a birth injury in the United States. Affecting either the mother or the baby (or both), birth injuries are physical injuries sustained during childbirth. While some injuries may be natural and unavoidable, others may sadly be caused by medical negligence during the pregnancy, labor, or birth. It’s important to be aware of the signs of birth injury and seek treatment to aid recovery.
Common birth injuries in mothers
Birth injuries in mothers are usually split into two different categories. Firstly, injuries to the perineal area happen in around 80% of all women who give birth. Perineal tears occur when there’s a tear or surgical cut in the area between the vagina and anus. Nerve damage can also occur to the perineal area, which can result in an uncomfortable condition termed pudendal neuralgia. The second category covers pelvic floor injuries. In particular, the pelvic floor muscles — which hold the bladder, uterus, and bowl in place — can become damaged. In fact, around half of women who give birth vaginally experience permanent stretching or tearing to their pelvic floor. Pelvic organ prolapse is also a possibility if the pelvic muscles are weakened or injured, which results in bowel and bladder issues. Moreover, emotional or psychological distress is also a form of birth trauma that occurs before, during, or after childbirth.
Healing from a birth injury
Fortunately, minor birth injuries — such as a small perineal graze or tear — have the potential to heal on their own without treatment. However, more severe injuries like deeper tears will need immediate stitches (possibly along with pain medication). Other, more serious injuries like significant damage to the pelvic floor muscles will require ongoing treatment. For example, physiotherapy can be used to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Some women also benefit from using pessaries or need surgery to repair a prolapse. In some cases, pelvic floor damage or prolapse isn’t immediately detected. Symptoms like pelvic pain or bowel or bladder issues indicate treatment is needed.
After a birth injury, it’s important to seek as much practical support as possible to help your mental and physical healing process. If your birth injury was the result of medical negligence, you can pursue legal action to win financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Birth injuries can also affect children, resulting in a number of lifelong health issues and disabilities. Financial compensation can also be awarded to cover their future care and medical expenses. Most maternity units also provide postnatal debriefing service to help with birth-related injury and trauma. Otherwise, health professionals also offer these services as well as therapy to help with birth trauma.
Mothers who sustain a birth injury may be at a higher risk of additional birth injuries during their next pregnancy, labor, or birth. In this case, some women opt for a cesarean section to minimize their risk of birth injury and trauma.