I am shocked at how little (if at all) that women are educated about the stresses of labor, giving birth, and their bodies postpartum. Having a baby is a huge physical stressor. Yet the extent of care that most women receive is a 1-2 night hospital stay and a sparse computer printout containing general discharge instructions. There are so many things that nobody talks about (probably because most of it is pretty gross and embarrassing). The only “heads up” I had was from my close friends during hushed conversations. But why? Why are we so ashamed to talk about something that so many women experience?
I was lucky. I had a short labor and minimal pushing. While I did have some scary moments during labor due to stacking contractions, the overall time that my body spent in “distress” was much shorter than most. I was certain that this meant that I would rebound fairly quickly and be back to my normal workout regimen in no time. However, that was far from reality.
When I had my hip surgery, I received very clear instructions from the surgeon as to how to prepare my body for the stresses of surgery (both before and after). I had a very intense physical therapy protocol (both home exercises and 3x a week office visits). My doctor and my physical therapist each worked with me to create a clear path to returning to my optimal activity level.
Giving birth is very different. And it shouldn’t be. I know that the issues that I am facing are not uncommon – but they are things that no doctor ever warned me about. I have a weak pelvic floor. I have abdominal separation. I have other internal issues as well. The only reason I know this is because when I tried to resume physical activity – things felt wrong. Not just “I just had a baby” wrong – but wrong wrong. My OB knew that I was a runner but never mentioned any of these warning signs or things that I may be feeling. She never mentioned the conditions that I am now receiving treatment for. I was lucky that she had no problem making a referral to a women’s PT practice – but had I not requested it I don’t know if I would ever have been referred for treatment. During my pregnancy nobody mentioned the pelvic floor or recommended that I do exercises to strengthen prior to giving birth. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case for most women. It truly is a shame.
I encourage all women to educate themselves and to learn to be their own advocates. Being in good physical shape does NOT necessarily correlate to an easy recovery. The pelvic floor is a whole separate area of fitness that I wish I had understood sooner. Certain damage is inevitable – but the extent of it can be mitigated. Why are our doctors not talking about it? Why are women not being educated about this? Why is treatment not being offered and encouraged? When so many women experience one issue or another – why aren’t we talking about it more?