• Jill M. Arnold, PT, DPT

Postpartum women ignored

No one can truly prepare you for childbirth, but no one really prepares you for what happens after childbirth. I was fortunate to have two totally different birthing experiences to draw from that I will discuss, but, as a whole, postpartum women are not being given the care that they need and deserve. I will start with my second delivery first because I love positivity, and there are so many practitioners who do love their postpartum Momma patients. For my daughter, I was very fortunate to have two very experienced midwives due to one being from out of town and just not having her MD license yet; therefore needing to be under the supervision of the other which had hers. Also, during this pregnancy, I was older and could advocate for myself much better. They permitted me to stand and walk during my entire delivery, and they even checked me in standing so I didn't have to slow my progress. Have you ever seen those cartoons with an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other? This is how I felt, but not a devil - more like a boot camp instructor! One was constantly checking to see if I was okay, needed anything like ice chips, while the other was telling me to pull my big girl pants up and do this thing. I definitely benefitted from having both. My girl was sideways, and I had no epidural. They talked me through every step, turned her, and were just super helpful during and after the delivery. I dare to say it was magical and, well, perfect.

During my first delivery, I had to get an epidural at 8.5 cm, I tore three times (yes, I got pelvic floor PT - practice what I preach!), and I hemorrhaged. After I had my son, they took him to clean him up, etc. When they came in to me afterward, I felt like I was treated like leftovers; like a piece of meat. I warned them that I felt like my bladder had gotten too full to urinate on its own, but I obliged and tried. They stood there with their hands on their hips telling me, 'Well, hurry up!'. I politely told them that maybe if I had some privacy, that would help. This was met with eye rolling, sighing, and walking out of the bathroom, but leaving the door open. I then reiterated that I think my bladder is too full to empty on its own. It was evident that they were not happy about having to spend more time on me. Then, when they agreed they would have to catheterize me, I reminded them that my labia minora tore and to please be gentle. This person then jammed her fingers right on my incision to insert the catheter. I cried, asked her to leave, and then asked for another.

This is only the immediate postpartum care, but this population of women is completely ignored for the long duration after giving birth. Healthy and thriving babies are monitored immediately after leaving the hospital, every week, every month, every year. Not every time, but in general the women who are the very vessels that carried and grew these members of society are given a quick check and told they are fine, that urinary incontinence is normal, and so is pain with intercourse. I'm seeing it every day. I admire and appreciate the midwives and ob/gyn's who advocate for their patients and make appropriate referrals for their patients; not wanting them to suffer. Other patients are sadly left to search for help on their own - or worse, suffer without knowing there is help out there.

Pelvic floor physical therapy is here to help with so many things postpartum. Urinary incontinence, diastasis recti, low back pain, pain with intercourse, painful scar (both c-section and episiotomy), pelvic pain, pubic pain, sciatic pain, urinary frequency, and so much more.

Feel free to share your delivery story - both positive and negative. These stories are a part of us, and this is real life.

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