Risks From Vaginal Birth Rarely Discussed
The New York Times was out with a blog post last week that notes how complications from vaginal birth likely do not receive the attention they deserve. Reams of stories are filed on the unique risks to C-sections and the harm that may come for those with certain risk-factors (old age, obseity, diabetes, etc.). However, far less discussion takes place regarding the harm that comes even in the "traditional" birthing process. The post is a helpful reminder that childbirth can always become a dangerous situation, and proper care is absolutely essential at all times.
The article was written by a mother who shared her personal story of injury following a vaginal birth. Contrary to the "grand" memories many claim to have about the birth of their children, this mother admitted that her memories are mostly about pain and injury. Specifically, she discussed how she experienced an extreme vaginal tear--a common injury during the birthing process. There are different degrees of tears, with some more serious than others. In her case, the writer sufferd the worst possible, a tear of the fourth degree.
The serious tear should have been expected because the mother experienced serious problems during an earlier birth. When her first child was born the mother was forced to push for hours, forceps were used, and she left the hosptial barely able walk. When preparing for this second delivery, she discussed these problems with her doctor. Was a C-section a better option? Perhaps, but the woman's doctor in this case apparently brushed it off. She writes, "I expressed my apprehension about another vaginal birth to a doctor beforehand. His response was to ask, “Was it really four hours, or did it just feel like four hours?”
Fortunately, the second birth did not invovle the mother pushing for four hours. But that is not because things went smoothly, she suffered a string of serious injuries. Besides the extensive vaginal tear, she explains that a "rectovaginal fistula" developed. While little discussed, fistulas are significant problems that many mothers experience as a result of vaginal childbirth. It refers to a "passage" opening between the rectum and vagina. As one might expect, this leads to problmes like incontinence and fecal matter entering the vagina.
Interestingly, the post notes that the frequency of these vaginal injuries--like tears--may be under-reported. For example, a New England Journal of Medicine study is pointed to which identifed that anywhere from 35 to 41 percent of mothers may suffer vaginal tears after vaginal childbirth. This is far higher than the 3-5 percent figure often quoted by experts on the frequency of the tears. The discrepency is likely related to the fact that the full extent of the damage may not be known immediately after the birth but only cause complications a bit later.
The bottom line is that childbirth--even vaginal births without maor risk factors--are serious medical events that inherently come with dangers. Medical professionals specializing in these matter know of those dangers and must act prudently in all cases to keep a mother and child safe. There are no excuses for failing to act properly. Ever. If you or a loved one may have suffered a preventable injury as a result of inadequare medical care, be sure to seek out legal help to ensure your rights are respeccted.
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