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Litany of hidden health problems affecting mothers

The Health Research Board-funded study from Trinity College Dublin’s (TCD’s) School of Nursing and Midwifery shows that in terms of sexual health, mental health, pain and other conditions, prevalence rates are high to very high, while the rate at which women are being asked about these conditions by healthcare professionals is extremely low.

Key findings included: More than two-thirds of women (67.9 per cent) had pelvic pain during pregnancy. However, only 5.8 per cent were reported to have pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy in the hospital records, which indicates a very high level of under-reporting in the maternity hospitals. One-in-three women still had persistent pain one year after the birth of their baby. Almost two-thirds of women were not asked about it by their GP in the first three months postpartum and half were not asked by their midwife or public health nurse in those first three months.

In relation to incontinence, almost 60 per cent of surveyed women reported leaking urine at three months postpartum. More than one-in-10 (12 per cent) women had leaked liquid or solid stools in the first three months postpartum, while almost one-in-10 had difficulties with involuntary passing of major amounts of wind. Three-quarters of women were not asked by their GP about urinary or anal incontinence.

With regard to mental health, 28 per cent of women reported they had experienced anxiety three months after having their baby and 17 per cent reported depression in the first three months postpartum.

However, half were not asked about anxiety or depression by their GP and one-in-three were not asked about it by their public health nurse in the first three months postpartum.

Speaking about the significance of these findings, Prof Cecily Begley, Principal Investigator of MAMMI and Chair of Nursing and Midwifery in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, TCD, said: “Our research to date indicates that at policy, research, practice and public discourse level, many serious aspects of women’s health during and after pregnancy remain almost completely hidden. Most of these conditions are preventable or treatable, yet women are not being asked about them during the first three months postpartum, a time at which they are in regular contact with healthcare professionals.”

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