It’s the secret that everyone knows. Giving birth changes your bladder control in some way. A leak here or there may be one thing but many women are hiding serious issues of incontinence. 1 in 3 women suffer from some sort of pelvic floor disorder including urinary and fecal incontinence. 80% of these women are mothers.
Many women are tired of trying to cover up their problem. Special pads and underwear may work for a time but many constantly worry about the smell. Researchers and doctors are finally starting to realize that this is a serious issue—much more than the minor inconvenience it was previously believed to be.
Woman often hear of the dangers of having a cesarean birth but rarely of the injuries that result from vaginal births. There are several factors that make a woman more likely to tear. Pushing for 2 ½ hours and body type are main factors but the biggest risk comes from birth with forceps.
Some of the women discussed in this article hid their problems for decades. One will always have to use a colostomy bag. Another is in so much pain she can no longer walk. Women are refusing to hide their problem and are now seeking help.
15 Cat Lee - "Her Pad Couldn't Keep Up"
Cat Lee began having incontinence during her second pregnancy. It got worse after the birth of her son. When she tried to return to work 6 months after his birth she continued to wet herself. She eventually quit her job after she wet her pants so thoroughly that her pad couldn’t keep up and her pant legs were soaked. She was so embarrassed by it she was willing to have a surgery to correct the problem.
She jumped at the opportunity to have vaginal mesh surgery that would only take 20 minutes and would cure her incontinence. The surgery certainly did cure her incontinence, but like many others, it caused her great pain. Years later she was hardly able to walk or sit down.
14 "Had Almost No Feeling In Her V"
After giving birth, Jennifer had almost no feeling in her vagina. She also had a major problem with incontinence. She left a grocery store with her 2-week-old and panties full of poop. She was so embarrassed by what was happening to her that at her 6 week checkup she said nothing when the doctor told her everything had healed.
Soon she began running again. She was sure to take baby wipes and change of clothes on each run. She even decided to not return to her job partially out of embarrassment. Jennifer felt like it was her fault—that she should have done more Kegels.
Finally after suffering for 8 years in silence she sought the help of another doctor. She was told her pelvic floor muscles were so damaged they were nearly useless.
13 Debbie - Childbirth Left Her With A Colostomy Bag
Debbie suffered a fourth degree tear during the birth of her son. A fourth degree tear is the worst possible tear. Debbie told BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire program, “I tore basically from the vagina to the back passage, all the way along – and when I went into surgery, they found it had cut into the bowel.”
Debbie had emergency surgery to repair the tear and many follow up appointments but eventually had to be fitted with a colostomy bag. She still has a small hole between her vagina and her bowel.
Debbie now stays indoors when possible, always takes extra clothes and is constantly searching for the nearest restroom. She’s lost confidence in herself and her relationship with her son’s father fell apart a year after his birth.
12 "In Pain And Unable To Control Her Bowels"
Lauren Henderberg was in labor for two days before her daughter was finally delivered with forceps. Lauren had suffered a very deep tear and lost a lot of blood.
At home the problems continued. She was in pain and unable to control her bowels. After six weeks she was still bruised and swollen. Her doctor reassured her that this was normal. After 3 months she was still bleeding and having fecal incontinence. She didn’t want to leave the house because of her embarrassment. Her doctor, though, continued to assure her all was normal.
Finally she confided in her mom what was happening. Her mom urged her to go to another doctor which she did. This doctor told her what was happening was not normal and helped her to regain control of her bowels.
11 ="She Still Cannot Feel When She Needs To Use The Bathroom"
Mel had a normal pregnancy which lead to a healthy baby boy. But during the delivery she suffered from an obstetric fistula. A fistula is a hole between the recal and vaginal passages. She had severe nerve damage and as a result she still cannot feel when she needs to use the bathroom—two years later. The birth injury may actually lead to a future colostomy.
After staying home for two years, Mel is finally returning to work. Her routine isn’t easy at all. She wakes up at 5:30 to eat then do a colonic irrigation. She avoids eating all day so that she won’t have an accident. She consistently wears pads but still occasionally has accidents. Sex is still painful for her and she rarely leaves the house socially.
10 Catherine Downes - 20 Years Of Suffering
Catherine Downes started having bladder control issues after the birth of her first child. She was so embarrassed by her problems that it took 20 years for her to seek help. Prior to the birth of her first child she was very active. With her new incontinence issues much of that went to the “wayside.”
When she took tap dancing classes she had to wear a pad. At weddings she would decline to dance out of embarrassment. She thought that all women have similar issues but they just didn’t talk about it.
Finally after 20 years she sought help for the problem. She went to physical therapy and learned how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly. She began using special compression shorts too. This helped tremendously and she was able to complete the Dublin marathon.
9 Belinda Birkett - "Left With No Bladder Control At All"
Belinda Birkett, now 54, started having some incontinence in her early 20s with the birth of her first child. But her problem soon grew much worse with the birth of her twins.
During a difficult delivery, Belinda was cut so that her second twin could be delivered. This caused major damage to her pelvic floor which required surgery. She was left with no bladder control at all. She described it as “full-on incontinence.” She could wet herself at any moment regardless of how many times she had recently used the restroom. She was forced to carry a full change of clothes, wear adult diapers and dress in baggy black pants. She was so embarrassed by her problem it took her 3 decades before she finally spoke with a doctor and began learning about treatments.
8 "Afraid To Be Intimate With Her Husband"
After having a complicated delivery with her son, Laura Burton was no longer able to anticipate when she would have to use the restroom or make it in time. She began carrying a change of clothes with her. Skinny jeans were no longer an option as they took too long to pull down and often left her all wet.
Laura was afraid to be intimate with her husband. She didn’t want an embarrassing accident in the bedroom.
During the birth of her son, the doctor had to use forceps. She was cut and tore further from the procedure with 3 layers of muscle damaged. Eventually she got help from a physiotherapist. Using a vaginal probe for exercises 3 times a day she finally regained control of her bladder again.
7 "Maternity Pads Were No Match For Her Leakage"
Faith Tan had her third baby and immediately began wetting herself. At first she thought it was a one-time deal and brushed it off. But soon she was home with her family and it was happening all the time. Maternity pads were no match for her leakage and she soon switched to adult diapers.
Every time she stood up everything in her bladder would come out. She tried drinking less but that was improbable with breastfeeding.
Soon she developed a serious urinary tract infection which she blames on being in the adult diapers all day long. Her doctor advised her to do Kegels to strengthen her pelvic muscles. Faith admits she never did them with her first two children. She began devotedly doing the exercises and luckily her incontinence went away.
6 Lyndsey B - "Doesn't Leave The House Without A Poise Pad"
Lyndsey B. shared that she was never even concerned about bladder control issues before having a baby. She was worried she would tear during delivery but bladder control never crossed her mind. Luckily, she had a vaginal delivery without any tearing but she still ended up with incontinence issues.
Soon after giving birth she realized that she couldn’t even feel the urge to go. Suddenly, she would be peeing her pants without warning. She ended up regaining this feeling but continues to be unable to fully control her bladder. 10 months after giving birth she had to be honest with herself about her problem. Now she doesn’t leave the house without a Poise pad. A friend confided that she had physical therapy for her postpartum incontinence. This is something Lyndsey wished she knew about sooner.
5 Jenny - "Her Doctor Didn't Believe Her"
Jenny, a single mother, was so devastated by her birth experience that it changed the way she thought of herself. She tore badly during her son’s birth, a third degree tear. The tear left her with no feeling in her bladder and nerve damage which still causes pain.
When she talked to her doctor about her issues she was assured that it was normal after having a baby. At one point she was even told that it was all in her head. She felt like there was nowhere to turn for help because her doctor didn’t even believe her.
Soon she began experiencing depression. She didn’t know whether or not she’d be able to mother her son. She explained, “I didn’t feel like I had anything left in me to love or mother.”
4 "Epidural Wore Off - Had No Bladder Control"
Samantha Taylor has had problems with urinary incontinence since the birth of her first child. Immediately after her epidural wore off, she had absolutely no bladder control. Eventually she gained about 80% back but continues to struggle with it throughout each day.
Her second child’s birth worsened the problem. She can’t walk, pick up her children or roll around with them without leaking. Samantha is forced to wear a pad each and every day. The constant moisture causes irritation which leads her to diaper rash cream. She’s even leaked during sex. Samantha looked into surgery to solve the problem but was advised that she should wait until she’s done having children. Now she’s not going to have any more so she’s considering surgery, exercise and a change in diet to help with the constant embarrassment.
3 "Swollen 50 Times Its Normal Size"
Claire L. was concerned about having a vaginal birth from the start. The women in her family have a long history of cesarean deliveries due to big babies and small hips. She discussed this with her doctor but the concern was brushed aside.
Claire ended up going 2 weeks past her due date before she was finally induced. The doctor again passed on the idea of a cesarean and went ahead with a vaginal birth. The baby arrived safely but Claire had so much damage. She had three deep tears to her vagina and her labia was swollen to 50 times its normal size according to her doctor.
Even after 9 months Claire didn’t feel totally back to normal. Anywhere from 50 to 80% of women experience tearing of the pelvic skin and muscles during birth.
2 Janey - "Unable To Get The Help She Needs"
Two years after giving birth, Janey worries that she’ll never be back to normal. She had a seemingly normal natural birth. Afterward she was so proud of what she had done as she looked down at her daughter.
But soon her hospital room was full of people. She was signing consent forms and being warned of the dangers of the surgery she needed to close her tear. Her ‘normal’ birth left her with a 3rd degree tear that required surgery. She was in so much pain after the procedure but felt that the staff didn’t really care about her pain. She wasn’t offered physical therapy to help in her recovery and she feels unable to get the help that she needs.
1 A 4th Degree Tear Her Doctor Had Never Seen Before
While most difficult tears are related to births with forceps one mom had an extreme tear during a natural water birth. She shared her traumatic experience with others on mumsnet.com. The birth went well. It was completely natural and drug free during the entire birth and labor. Everything proceeded as expected and the baby was born during a peaceful and calm water birth.
After the placenta was delivered, mom got out of the pool—the first time the team realized that not everything went so well. Immediately she was rushed off to have surgery. The whole event still gives her flashbacks and sex is out of the question. Her doctor even confided that he had never even seen a 4th degree tear in all of his years.
Sources: The Mirror, The Guardian, Romper, Daily Mail, Mother Jones, Cosmopolitan, The Sun, Young Parents, Self, Irish Times, MumsNet