The Legal Examiner Affiliate Network The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner search instagram avvo phone envelope checkmark mail-reply spinner error close The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner The Legal Examiner
Skip to main content
closeup of a woman is giving birth in hospital with husband holding her hand while doctor helps delivery
Paulson & Nace
(202) 463-1999

About 3.6 million women give birth every year in the U.S. While childbirth is a happy occasion, it carries the risk of serious medical complications, and some of these patients will be left with permanent damage. Pelvic floor injuries are some of the most common injuries among women who give birth. They range in severity, but almost one in 10 women who give birth vaginally will need surgery for a pelvic floor condition. Given the potential seriousness of a pelvic floor injury, you may wonder whether pelvic floor injuries during childbirth are preventable. The answer is yes. New research allows medical practitioners the information they need to help avoid pelvic floor injuries. 

Pelvic Floor Injuries

Pelvic floor injuries are most common during vaginal childbirth, and mothers are most at risk during their first birth. The risk is increased by external factors like advanced maternal age and being overweight, but forceps can also cause these injuries. During these deliveries, the medical provider may use forceps — large tools that resemble salad tongs — to guide the baby out of the birthing canal. Forceps are typically used when labor isn’t progressing on its own.     

Common pelvic floor injuries include:

Urinary incontinence: Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control. It is common during pregnancy and the first few weeks after giving birth, but it can become a permanent problem. Urinary incontinence is marked by frequent urination, needing to urinate suddenly, and involuntarily leaking urine—often while coughing, sneezing, or exercising.

Pelvic organ prolapse: Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when one or more pelvic organs slip out of position and bulge into the vagina. The condition affects around 3 to 11% of women and ranges in seriousness. In some cases, organ prolapse can cause debilitating side effects that are difficult to recover from. 

Overactive bladder: The most common symptom of this condition is a sudden, uncontrollable need to urinate. Millions of people in the U.S. have overactive bladders, which are often treated with lifestyle changes and bladder retraining. If those aren’t effective, a doctor may recommend nerve therapy.

Fecal incontinence: Fecal incontinence is the inability to hold stool in. It can be caused by anal sphincter injuries that occur when a patient experiences perineal tears during childbirth. Fecal incontinence has been associated with psychological symptoms, including a sense of shame and embarrassment. 

Are Birth Injuries Preventable?

A recent study led by Michigan Medicine investigated the most effective ways to treat and prevent pelvic floor injuries. Researchers identified that pelvic floor disorders often result from tears in the levator muscle, which holds the pelvic organs in place. One way to reduce the risk of pelvic floor injuries is for providers to use a vacuum instead of forceps during vaginal delivery. During a vacuum delivery, a medical provider attaches a suction cup to the baby’s head and guides the baby out of the birth canal. While vacuum-assisted deliveries still have risks, they can be less likely to cause pelvic floor injuries.

Additionally, the study found that women should be coached to relax their pelvic muscles during labor and delivery to help stretch the muscles and decrease the risk of damage. Patient education is also a large part of prevention, and pregnant women should be informed about the chance of pelvic floor injuries during childbirth at doctor’s appointments. Mothers who have a higher risk of pelvic floor disorders may choose to deliver via C-section instead. Lastly, the study noted that there are currently clinical trials for dilators that can slowly stretch the birth canal during labor to reduce the injury risk.

Medical providers are responsible for keeping patients safe and implementing strategies that can help lessen the risk of delivery complications, but they don’t always fulfill these expectations. Studies have found that obstetricians are one of the top medical fields that experience burnout. Doctors, nurses, and midwives are often overworked and may not give patients the individualized care they need, which can result in avoidable birth injuries.

Birth Injury Lawsuits

The physical and emotional side effects of a pelvic floor injury are numerous, and you may find it difficult to return to everyday life while healing from your birth injury. Additionally, you may not realize the extent of your injury until long after it happens. Doctors are supposed to meet a standard of care, meaning they must treat patients the same way a similarly competent medical provider would. If your medical provider acted negligently and didn’t meet the expected standard of care, you may have grounds for a birth injury lawsuit. You need an experienced birth injury attorney to examine your case and help you determine whether you can move forward with legal action. Call Paulson and Nace at 202-463-1999 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation. 

Comments for this article are closed.