Childbirth is one of the most amazing and terrifying experiences women endure. One of the most common questions when it comes to childbirth and injuries, is “what is normal”? Of course, when your body goes through what pregnancy and childbirth puts it through, there is a certain degree of risk that you could experience an injury, pain, or other unexpected medical concerns. But what happens if what you perceive as normal is really something more? What if your injuries are caused by a doctor or nurse not caring for you the way they should? Those are among the important questions we will discuss in this article.
Childbirth and Injuries: What is Normal?
After childbirth, there are some natural, normal processes that your body with go through. Depending on the type of delivery you had – vaginal versus cesarean (c-section)- your recovery will vary. In the weeks following childbirth, here is an idea of what you may be able to expect:
- Two to Three Weeks – In the first few weeks following childbirth, you are likely to experience some vaginal bleeding, discomfort, and burning during urination. If you had a c-section, you will likely have some abdominal pain, pain or discomfort at the surgical site, and constipation.
- Six Weeks – Up to six weeks after childbirth, you may still have some pain or discomfort in your abdominal area, pelvic stiffness, and discomfort during sex (usually your doctor will recommend to abstain from sexual activity until at least six weeks after childbirth). If you had a c-section, you may notice some numbness, but your wound should be well healed and not painful.
- While Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding decreases your body’s estrogen levels, which can cause dryness and sensitivity in your genital area. You may experience some stiffness or minor pain in your breasts, but feeding should not be painful.
You should note that every woman’s body is different, so what is “normal” for you, may not be normal to someone else. Always talk to your doctor to find out what you should expect after childbirth based on your individual situation.
How Long Should Symptoms Last?
The symptoms you have after childbirth, and their duration, will largely depend on your individual experience. Unfortunately, many women live years following childbirth with injuries or conditions that went undiagnosed or untreated. The British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported in 2015 that 24 percent of women studied experienced pain during sex up to a year after giving birth. Further, 77 percent had ongoing back pain a year after childbirth, and 49 percent experienced incontinence.
What it is important to glean from this information is the fact that many women live years after childbirth experiencing devastating symptoms that could have been prevented. Research at the University of Michigan in August 2015 revealed that 29 percent of women studied seven weeks post-childbirth had fractures that had never been diagnosed. Further, 41 percent experienced undiagnosed tears to their pelvic floor. It is unacceptable for so many women to suffer for years without being properly diagnosed or treated for potentially serious conditions.
What Symptoms Should I Consider Abnormal?
If you have had children before, you may know what your body’s normal recovery period is like. If you are a first-time parent, childbirth can be an overwhelming, strange experience. In either case, childbirth and injuries should always be a concern that is addressed, taken seriously, and treated appropriately. Contact your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:
- Fecal incontinence
- Leaking urine when laughing, coughing, or exercising after six months
- Pelvic pain six weeks or more after childbirth
- Painful sex
- Pain around a c-section scar
- Signs that your c-section scar is not healing properly
- Severe abdominal pain
- High blood pressure
- Numbness or tingling of your arms or legs
- Severe weakness, fatigue, or fainting spells
How do I Talk to My Doctor About Childbirth and Injuries?
Many women are hesitant to talk to their doctor about childbirth and injuries. This is largely because they are afraid that he or she may think they are accusing them of malpractice. Additionally, women may feel like their symptoms are normal, and that they just need to be strong and manage what they are feeling on their own. After childbirth, your body is vulnerable. Never underestimate a symptom or “gut feeling” that something is wrong. You also should never be afraid to ask questions about your health or the care you have been provided. Consider asking the following questions:
- What specific injuries or conditions are causing my symptoms?
- How did I become injured? Was it preventable error, accident, or complications of a routine procedure?
- What is the recovery time for my condition or injuries?
- What is the best method of treating my condition? How long does treatment last?
- What are the long-term impacts of my diagnosis on my health and family?
If you have questions and are not getting answers by your doctor, consider getting a second opinion from another doctor.
What Should I do if A Doctor or Nurse Caused my Injuries?
If at any time you feel like you have been injured by the conduct of a doctor or nurse, you should contact a medical malpractice or birth injury attorney. Only a skilled attorney can help you understand medical malpractice laws and guide you in the process of determining if you have a case.
Healthcare providers are required by law to provide only safe, quality, appropriate healthcare. When they deviate from these obligations, they risk injuring the very people they have sworn to serve and protect. It is an unfortunate reality that thousands of women suffer from undiagnosed, untreated, or otherwise negligent healthcare following childbirth. The good news is that you are not alone.
Birth Injury Attorneys
At Brown Wharton & Brothers, we see the devastating effect of negligent healthcare every day. Our attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of patients just like you who have suffered from a preventable injury and who need help. We can help you defend your rights and pursue justice. Contact our office to learn more by sending us an email, or by calling us to schedule your free case review.