Undiagnosed Post-Partum Injuries
February 15th, 2017 by Wapner Newman
Childbirth subjects a mother’s body to extreme stress. Torn or stretched tissues and muscles are common, and with time, those injuries may heal without intervention. But some more severe post-partum injuries go undiagnosed or untreated, leaving new mothers in extreme pain.
According to the research report, “Chronic Pain in Women: Neglect, Dismissal and Discrimination,” many women who experience chronic pain have frustrating interactions with health care providers. The report notes:
- Health professionals often take women’s reports of pain less seriously than men’s reports of pain.
- Doctors are more likely to believe a woman who reports pain is overly emotional or imagining it.
So, when new mothers complain of ongoing pain, incontinence, and other symptoms, their doctors may dismiss those complaints as overreaction to normal post-pregnancy discomfort. As a result, doctors may miss signs of a serious post-partum injury.
Misdiagnoses and Quality of Life
Post-partum complications include pelvic floor disorder, which includes symptoms such as incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, a painful and often debilitating condition. Many women who report these symptoms to their obstetrician-gynecologist are told to do strengthening exercises, or to simply “wait it out,” when they may actually need surgery.
An article in Cosmopolitan magazine told the story of a new mother who experienced extreme incontinence, but at her six-week post-partum checkup, her doctor told her “everything looked great.” Yet, her incontinence continued, and as she grew increasingly ashamed and embarrassed, she stopped seeking medical care.
Eight years later, she decided to see a different doctor, who told her she had suffered extreme damage to her pelvic muscles and nerves. After seeing several different physical therapists and undergoing embarrassing and invasive treatments, she finally reversed the damage childbirth had done.
OB-GYNs have no training in the evaluation of pelvic floor muscles or nerve pain, and during a routine exam, there would be no way to see such injuries. That’s why doctors should listen to their patients, and not dismiss their symptoms as imaginary. When OB-GYNs can find no cause of a patient’s pain or discomfort, they should refer that patient to a specialist.
The Need for Education
Women suffering from post-partum hip pain may have a torn labrum, the material that stabilizes and cushions the hip joint. However, OB-GYNs who aren’t familiar with that injury may not even consider it as a cause of hip pain.
In 2010, Dr. Justin LaReau told Chicago Parent magazine, “Labral tears have probably been happening for thousands of years, but it’s something we’re just now getting better at recognizing.”
Another doctor quoted in the article said that as the medical community becomes more aware of childbirth-related labral tears, “we should be able to get more of these diagnosed right the first time.”
Problems Later in Life
Pregnancy can affect the body in ways that may not be evident until years later. Pelvic congestion syndrome, in which pelvic vein dysfunction causes chronic pain while sitting or standing, affects primarily women between age 20 and 45 who have a history of multiple pregnancies.
Doctors may misdiagnose this condition, because during a routine exam, when the patient is lying down, pressure in the veins is reduced and bulging is no longer visible. Only through ultrasound or other scans can doctors confirm the presence of pelvic congestion syndrome.
If you believe a misdiagnosis is to blame for your post-partum pain and discomfort, the attorneys at Wapner Newman can help. For almost 40 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. We encourage you to contact us today by calling 1-800-LAW-6600 or filling out a free case evaluation form.