February 21, 2024
Health Issues

Study Reveals More Than One-Third of Women Experience Persistent Health Issues After Giving Birth

A study published in The Lancet Global Health has found that over one-third of women suffer from long-term health problems after giving birth. The study, part of a special series on maternal health, highlights the high burden of postnatal conditions that continue for months or even years following childbirth.

The research reveals that common postpartum conditions include dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse), affecting 35% of women, low back pain (32%), anal incontinence (19%), urinary incontinence (8%-31%), anxiety (9%-24%), depression (11%-17%), perineal pain (11%), fear of childbirth (tokophobia) (6%-15%), and secondary infertility (11%).

The authors of the paper emphasize the need for healthcare systems to recognize these prevalent problems, many of which persist beyond the point where women usually have access to postnatal services. They argue that effective care throughout pregnancy and childbirth is crucial in detecting risks and preventing complications that can lead to lasting health issues after birth.

Dr. Pascale Allotey, Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at WHO, states that these postpartum conditions cause significant suffering in women’s daily lives, both physically and emotionally. She adds that they are often underappreciated, underrecognized, and underreported.

The paper highlights the neglect of these conditions in clinical research, practice, and policy. During a literature review spanning 12 years, the authors found no recent high-quality guidelines for the effective treatment of 40% of the 32 priority conditions analyzed in the study. Additionally, not a single high-quality guideline was identified from a low- or middle-income country. The lack of data is also evident, with no nationally representative or global studies available for any of the conditions identified.

The special series in The Lancet, titled “Maternal health in the perinatal period and beyond,” calls for greater attention to women’s long-term health, before and after pregnancy. It emphasizes the need for a holistic approach to reduce maternal deaths, addressing not only the immediate biomedical causes but also the broader social, economic, and environmental factors that affect women’s health. These factors include racial and gender inequities, economic context, nutrition, sanitation, environmental risks, and exposure to violence and conflict.

The paper argues that the neglect of these fundamental issues helps explain why 121 out of 185 countries have failed to make significant progress in reducing maternal deaths over the past two decades.

Joao Paulo Souza, Center Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (BIREME) for PAHO/WHO and one of the authors of the first paper, emphasizes that maternal health should not only be a concern during pregnancy. He highlights the various factors that influence a woman’s likelihood of having a healthy pregnancy, including her environment, political and economic systems, access to nutritious food, and level of agency. Addressing all these factors is crucial to improving women’s health, alongside access to high-quality healthcare throughout their lives.

The series advocates for a strong, multidisciplinary health system that provides high-quality and respectful maternity services. It also emphasizes the need to prevent ill health and mitigate the impact of broader inequities, including interventions that support the most vulnerable women and girls.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it