Friday, March 17, 2023

The Link Between Maternal Birth Injury and Mental Health

Birth is a unique thing, being at once a near-universal life experience and also a totally individual one. While bringing new life into the world should be a joyful occasion, this is not always the case – and what should be a routine procedure can sometimes go wrong. In such instances, something called a maternal birth injury can occur, with devastating physical and emotional impacts. But what is a maternal birth injury, and what can it mean?

What is a Maternal Birth Injury?

The term ‘maternal birth injury’ refers to a relatively wide range of injuries, issues and conditions that emerge as a direct result or complication of birth. There are some obvious and common contenders for maternal birth injury, such as tearing to the vagina or perineum which can occur when the baby begins to breach. 

Muscular issues can also present, such as failure or loosening of the pelvic floor leading to long-term bladder and bowel problems. There are also circumstances in which pelvic organs, including the bladder, can prolapse during delivery, causing nerve damage in the process. The causes for such injuries are widespread too, and not limited to either biology or luck. There are circumstances in which medical negligence can play a part. 

How Can Maternal Birth Injuries Affect the New-Born?

Speaking of negligence, there are instances in which maternal birth injuries and their treatment can cause complications  for the baby too. If there is difficulty in delivery, practitioners may perform an ‘instrumental delivery’, using forceps to pull the baby out. This can encourage tearing or prolapse in some scenarios, and simultaneously risk the brain health of the baby if done roughly.

This kind of negligent care is unfortunately at a higher risk of occurring, due in part to difficulties that NHS maternity facilities are experiencing through funding and staffing. Brain injury claims with regard to birth-related negligence might cover birth asphyxia or forceps-related injuries, while general negligence claims would cover the length of the stay and the parent’s treatment by staff. 

Mental Health, and Resources Available

The impact of maternal birth injury stretches far beyond the physical; the mental toll that an unexpected or unprecedented injury can have one what should be a time for rest, relaxation and neonatal joy is profound. Post-partum depression is already a common instance in new parents, and can be triggered or significantly exacerbated by the need for new accommodations, or by permanent changes to the body.

For women who have recently suffered a maternal birth injury, there is a host of resources available online – including the Birth Injury Hub, a website with comprehensive information about the various complications, both physical and mental, that such injuries can present. In a wider sense, mental health charities are well-equipped to deal with a wide range of precipitating factors and specific issues, making reaching out to an organisation like Mind a viable option too.

This is a guest blog entry.

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