Postpartum and Breastfeeding

A New Study Finds More Than 1 in 3 Women Have Lasting Health Problems After Giving Birth

Hillary Bennetts

A New Study Finds More Than 1 in 3 Women Have Lasting Health Problems After Giving Birth

Many women agree that the effects of pregnancy and childbirth are more extensive than they expected. And now, we have research to validate what so many of us have felt. 

A recent study published in “The Lancet Global Health” found that the long-term health effects caused by pregnancy and birth may be more common than we realize. The study found that more than 1 in 3 women face health concerns well beyond the single six-month postpartum visit. 

That’s at least 40 million women each year who struggle with their own health while trying to care for their new baby and adjust to their new family.

A range of health effects

The study shows a significant burden of a wide range of conditions that persist in the months or even years after giving birth. These conditions include the following (and the percentage of postpartum women they affect):

  • Pain during sexual intercourse: 35%
  • Low back pain: 32%
  • Anal incontinence: 19%
  • Urinary incontinence: 8-31%
  • Anxiety: 9-24%
  • Depression: 11-17% 
  • Perineal pain: 11% 
  • Fear of childbirth: 6-15%
  • Secondary infertility: 11%

Common doesn’t mean normal

Sometimes we feel comfort when we know we’re not alone. But just because postpartum complications are common doesn’t mean they’re normal. And it certainly doesn’t mean they are something you should have to deal with for the rest of your life. No, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your health or your sanity just because you became a mother.

Related Reading: Returning to Work as a New Mother Needs A Plan.

The 6 week visit isn’t cutting it

The study authors acknowledge that the single (and often brief) postpartum visit isn’t cutting it: “The historical limitation of postnatal care services to the 6 weeks after birth is a contributing factor. Conditions such as depression, urinary and anal incontinence, and sexual dysfunction can be caused or exacerbated by pregnancy and childbirth but might only present months, or even years, after childbirth. By this time, women are no longer accessing postpartum care services.” 

We deserve better

Care for mothers should not stop at 6 weeks postpartum. Women need access to care from a range of providers who listen to their concerns and help to address them so that women can thrive, not just survive. 

In addition to comprehensive medical care, we need access to nutrient and hormone testing. We need access to mental health care. We need pelvic floor physical therapy. We need employers who understand that working mom life looks a little different, and flexibility in the workplace can have a profound impact on stress and productivity. And of course, we need to know that we’re not alone.

To try to make sure no mother feels alone Needed has introduced our 'Postpartum Guide,' a comprehensive and continuously expanding resource designed to support you with shared experiences and expert insights, covering all your postpartum needs. Because a lack of support, should never be normal. 

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Hillary Bennetts, Nutritionist

Hillary Bennetts is a nutritionist and business consultant focusing on prenatal and postpartum health. In addition to nutrition consulting, she provides business consulting and content creation for companies in the health and wellness industry. Hillary spent almost a decade in corporate consulting before shifting gears to combine her lifelong passion for health and wellness with her business background and nutrition education.