• Anya Smirnova

Childbirth: Quick facts for the UK

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

Below you will find statistics (as of April 2020) for the most common issues women in the UK experience after childbirth.

These conditions are common and are either preventable or treatable. If you experience any of them, do not put up with them, reach out for help.

The purpose of this post is to raise awareness and encourage you to seek help if needed. If it feels too much, stop and put yourself first. It will be here when you are ready.

1:3 women experience urinary incontinence[1]

1:10 women suffer faecal incontinence[2]

1:3 women experience painful sex[3]

1:12 women experience pelvic organ prolapse[4]

Statistics are likely an underestimate as these are ‘taboo’ areas where women do not disclose symptoms, either because they are normalised or through embarrassment/shame.

90% of women tear in childbirth[5] and between 1-10% of women experience severe perineal tears (obstetric and sphincter injuries) in childbirth[6], although health professionals feel this figure has been underestimated.

Obesity and incontinence are linked – 10% loss of body mass can reduce symptoms by 50%. Research suggests mothers are heavier and older – both of which can increase risk of incontinence and prolapse.

Multiple Cochrane reviews show that conservative treatment with physiotherapy is effective for urinary incontinence, many causes of faecal incontinence and vaginal prolapse.

Incontinence and prolapse issues, along with dyspareunia and other health issues, can adversely impact all aspects of a woman’s life: mental health, physical health, relationships and intimacy, careers (incl ability to work/commute to work), ability to exercise.

Around one in four women experience mental health problems in pregnancy and during the 24 months after giving birth (e.g. depression or PTSD)[7]. A 2019 study[8] on birth trauma showed:

  • 30% of new mums suffering from mental and/or physical trauma following their birth, are not being given the support they need to cope.

  • 73% of women were never asked about their birth experience.

  • 75% of women felt they did not get the support they needed.

There is a concern that due to the Coronavirus outbreak, mental health issues will skyrocket.

The NHS Long-Term Plan (January 2019) sets goals for the next ten years to:

  • focus on prevention,

  • improve access to postnatal physiotherapy to support women who need it to recover from birth, and

  • improve access to and the quality of perinatal mental health care for mothers, their partners and children,

however, for women giving birth today this is not yet the reality.

Do not put up with any of these conditions, reach out for help. Use reliable resources to research your condition, talk to your NHS GP, use your private healthcare insurance. Aim for prevention and early treatment.

WOMEN IN LAW: If you are pregnant or a new mum, reach out. We provide Executive & Health coaching for women in law around childbirth. We also offer corporate events to female lawyers and trainings to managers and HR in law firms. Contact to book a chat.

[1] The NHS Long-Term Plan, January 2019. Available from: https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/. [2] The NHS Long-Term Plan, January 2019. [3] The BJOG release, 21 January 2015, published by the RCOG. Available from: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/news/bjog-release-link-found-between-pain-during-or-after-sexual-intercourse-and-mode-of-delivery/. [4] The NHS Long-Term Plan, January 2019. [5] The RCOG online information for patients. Available from: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/patients/tears/tears-childbirth/. [6] The Masic Foundation Manual, February 2017. Available from: http://masic.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/information-document-masic1.pdf. [7] The NHS Long-Term Plan, January 2019. [8] The Make Birth Better Report, April 2020. Available from: https://www.makebirthbetter.org/thinktraumanow

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