But something was amiss. I described these symptoms over and over and was ignored by health professionals until one day, over a cup of tea, a girlfriend suggested I might be suffering from a pelvic organ prolapse. But birth is much safer now — so why are so many women still suffering its after-effects undiagnosed and untreated?
What this means is that my vaginal wall was so badly damaged giving birth that my bladder was spilling out into my vagina. I cared for my son dutifully, feeding, bathing, burping, swaddling, soothing him through the night, but much of the time I felt weirdly detached, like a zombie shuffling through the motions. Leah with Frank just after his birth. Most women who experience birth injury and trauma never get properly diagnosed or treated. But something was amiss. But seven hours in, when my baby turned out to be an undetected breech, I was rushed to hospital in a wailing ambulance. I ruminated over the details of what happened for weeks, unable to think about little else. Physically I was also struggling. There are no birth trauma or injury counselling services and after care, as I found out, is difficult to come by. This is not as fun as it sounds. Part of the reason is that the conversation around birth trauma and injury is steeped in shame and institutional sexism. The sound of his cry induced black thoughts, a darkening of my already dull mood. We found out later this sort of contact is not encouraged; no comment or advice could be offered. I took him to see the community midwife twice because I was convinced his eyes were crossed. There is a prevailing attitude I encountered among many health professionals which is that new mothers should basically learn to suck it up. The next day I booked an appointment with my GP who referred me to a gynaecologist who confirmed that, indeed, I had a moderate-to-severe case of a condition called cystocele , otherwise known as a prolapse of the bladder. The best course of treatment, he told me, was corrective surgery. The same year researchers from the University of Michigan gave 68 women MRIs seven weeks after having babies. With my first pregnancy I was determined to have an all-natural, drug-free, at-home water birth. For a system that prides itself on being female-centred, the NHS maternity care system is failing post-natal women. They estimate as many as , more women may feel traumatised by childbirth and develop untreated symptoms of PTSD. Once it was determined my son would be born via emergency caesarean, a doctor talked me through all the risks in advance and asked me to sign a surgical waiver. Some days I told the story to anyone who would listen; others I could barely speak at all. As I found out later, women in my age group 40 , especially those who have had a previous C-section, have much higher rates of assisted births — and assisted births often lead to injury and trauma. I rented a birth pool at the urging of my NHS homebirth midwife and when labour began I went around the house lighting scented candles. A hospital collectively delivers. When I demanded to know if the midwife thought he looked like he had brain damage she looked at me oddly.
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