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Long-term effects of pregnancy women don’t talk about

Pregnancy is one of the biggest transformations the female body can undergo, so it's no surprise it takes some time to bounce back after having a baby. While many women discuss their post-baby weight loss efforts, there are a few conditions some women are too embarrassed to talk about, even with their doctor. They include:

  • Bladder dropping. The vaginal wall supports the bladder. Childbirth puts stress on this wall, potentially causing long-term damage. Later in life, it is not uncommon for the vaginal wall to essentially cave in, causing the bladder to drop into the vagina.  

  • Stress incontinence. When the vaginal wall collapses, this triggers a domino effect. Not only do the bladder, urethra and rectum shift into the vagina, but this also puts added pressure on the bladder, causing leakage. This leakage, known as stress incontinence, can occur with any added exertion or when laughing, sneezing or coughing.

  • Rectocele. During childbirth, it is also possible to tear the rectovaginal septum, which separates the rectum and vagina. Rectal tissue can then bulge through this opening, similar to a hernia. Women who deliver large babies (weighing more than 9 pounds) or those who have quick deliveries are more susceptible to this condition.

“Childbirth can cause tissue damage in the pelvic area that can appear months or even years later,” says Tanya Beckford, M.D., a Piedmont obstetrician and gynecologist. “Many of these conditions are hereditary, so it is wise to ask your mother about her medical history. But it is also important to understand that these conditions are extremely common and there are treatment options available.”

Prevention and treatment tips

The added weight and stress on the pelvic area for a nine-month period, followed by the pressure of child-birthing, is stressful on a woman’s body. Dr. Beckford encourages every woman to control her weight gain during and after pregnancy because obesity is a major risk factor of pelvic prolapse. This can help minimize the effects of these three conditions along with numerous others that result from pregnancy.

For someone with minor symptoms, Kegel exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Electrical stimulation, physical therapy and routine surgeries are among other common treatment options.

Many women feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about these conditions with their doctor. However, if a woman is experiencing heaviness or a pulling sensation in the pelvis, leakage, or a constant uncomfortable sensation, Dr. Beckford recommends talking with a physician about these symptoms.

"Women need to know they do not have to suffer in silence. There are treatment options available. I encourage women to seek medical advice in an effort to optimize their quality of life for the long-run,” says Dr. Beckford.  

Get more pregnancy health tips.

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