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What women need to know about health effects of giving birth

It’s no secret that a new mother’s body takes a beating during the process of giving birth. And while the new baby is a miracle, the damage done to the mother can be long-lasting, devastating and in some cases deadly.

In fact, while the global death rate for women during childbirth has dropped, it has risen in the United States.

The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington reports that there were 28 deaths due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth per 100,000 births in the U.S., up from 23 in 2005 – a rate triple that of Canada’s. The U.S.’s rate is now worse than countries including Iran, Vietnam, Russia and Romania.

Heart problems, diabetes lead the list of problems

While eclampsia, a condition involving high blood pressure, is traditionally blamed for many birth-related deaths, the rise in the U.S. is instead being driven by heart problems and diabetes – problems related to an increase in obesity.

These chronic health problems are not only harder to treat during pregnancy, they are harder to blame for deaths if they occur up to a year after the mother has left the hospital. A death by heart failure six months after being discharged from the hospital is difficult to trace back to childbirth.

Experts say that the increased age of women who are giving birth does not account for the increase, nor do any racial or economic disparities.

Nonfatal injuries also wreak havoc on women

To put it lightly, childbirth is difficult on a woman’s body. While some bleeding, soreness and incontinence is normal as a new mother’s body heals, the severity of many of these injuries goes undiagnosed in the hospital and unreported in post-delivery visits.

ome have reported that during childbirth:

  • 35 percent to 40 percent of women suffer from perineal tears while only up to five percent of these tears are diagnosed at delivery
  • 30 percent of women may have undiagnosed pelvic fractures
  • 40 percent of woman have undiagnosed pelvic floor muscle damage
  • 50 percent of women suffer from incontinence more than a year after delivery.

These problems can also contribute to postpartum depression. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that “baby blues” affects 80 percent of mothers, postpartum depression affects nearly 15 percent of all woman after birth.

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