At least 40 mn women have health problems post childbirth yearly: Lancet

Symptoms include dyspareunia, lower back pain, anxiety and depression, especially in regions with high mortality rates

Representative image (photo: DW)
Representative image (photo: DW)


Every year, at least 40 million women are likely to experience a long-term health problem caused by childbirth, new study published in The Lancet Global Health journal has found.

Researchers found that the symptom of experiencing pain during sexual intercourse, or dyspareunia, affected more than a third of such postpartum women (35 per cent), while 32 per cent experienced lower back pain.

Other symptoms affecting postnatal women included involuntary urination (8-31 per cent), anxiety (9-24 per cent), depression (11-17 per cent) and perineal pain (11 per cent), which refers to pain in the general region between the anus and the genital organs, the international team of researchers including those from the World Health Organization (WHO) said in their study.

Their study showed that a high burden of postnatal conditions persisted in the months or even years after giving birth. However, many of these occur beyond the point where women typically have access to postnatal services.

The authors thus called for a greater recognition within the healthcare system of these common problems.

Effective care throughout pregnancy and childbirth is also a critical preventive factor to detect risks and avert complications that can lead to lasting health issues after birth, they said.

The situation can be worse in many low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly those with a persistently high burden of maternal mortality, than in high-income countries (HICs), the researchers said in their study.

During a literature review spanning the last 12 years, the authors identified no recent high-quality guidelines to support effective treatment for 40 per cent of the 32 priority conditions analysed in their study and found not a single high-quality guideline from a low- or middle-income country.

Even in countries where resources are channelled to meet the global targets for the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) agenda, these long-term conditions are often overlooked, they said.

Further, they added that data gaps were significant, as there were no nationally representative or global studies for any of the conditions identified through the research.

"Many postpartum conditions cause considerable suffering in women's daily life long after birth, both emotionally and physically, and yet they are largely underappreciated, underrecognized, and underreported," said Dr Pascale Allotey, director of sexual and reproductive health and research at WHO.

"Throughout their lives, and beyond motherhood, women need access to a range of services from health-care providers who listen to their concerns and meet their needs - so they not only survive childbirth but can enjoy good health and quality of life," said Allotey.

The study is one of the four forming The Lancet Series titled "Maternal health in the perinatal period and beyond", which calls for greater attention to the long-term health of women and girls - after and also before pregnancy.

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