Physical birth trauma is a direct result of the birthing process, which may or may not be identified immediately.
- 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/heavy 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
- Sweating, shaking, headaches, dizziness, gastro-intestinal upsets and chest pains not connected with medical conditions.
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Up to 90% of women experience tears to some extent during childbirth as the baby moves through and stretches the vagina. This is especially true of a woman’s first vaginal birth.1
Pelvic Floor Muscle Injury
The topic of pelvic floor damage in childbirth is attracting more and more attention in the community. This is not surprising – after all, a large proportion of women who attempted to give birth naturally are affected.2 In the first vaginal birth as many as seven out of ten women will experience some tearing of the perineum.1 Until recently, the phrase ‘pelvic floor injury’ referred only to perineal and vaginal tears, and damage to the anal sphincter (the muscle that surrounds the end of the back passage). However, up to a quarter of women have deeper, more extensive injury to the internal muscles and supporting tissues of the vagina and pelvis.3,4
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) is not uncommon, with millions of women across the world experiencing it at some time in their life – though many women haven’t heard of the condition prior to experiencing it themselves. Up to 20% of women will need surgery for pelvic organ prolapse at some stage during their lives, although, if the prolapse is minor, many of those women won’t notice, or won’t be bothered by it.5
Being abdominal surgery, pain in the early months is very common after a caesarean section.
For the majority of women, this pain will subside by 3-6 months, but for approximately 11% of women, incision wound pain will persist for at least 12 months.6 However, women can also experience pain elsewhere such as back pain (17.5% of women) and chronic pelvic pain; including pain with sexual function and using tampons (9.9%) 12 months after a C-section.
PA labia tear is a tear of the skin or soft tissues that form the vulva. This can include the labia minora or majora or the clitoral hood. While they occur commonly during vaginal birth they are not as much less talked about as often as other types of vaginal tears. Your care providers may also refer to the injury as ‘grazing,’ or a ‘first-degree tear’.
A fistula is an abnormal passage between two parts of the body that would not normally be connected. When a fistula arises as a complication from childbirth it is called an ‘obstetric fistula’. A fistula is a rare but known complication of third and fourth degree perineal tears.
For more information on the various types of health professionals involved in birth trauma treatment, visit the Getting Support section on our What is Birth Trauma? page.