Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Peeing yourself as a mom - a rite of passage?

In her article, A Vaginal Birth Means Your Baby Isn't the Only One Who'll Need Diapers, author Mary Fischer does something a little different when reporting on recent birth research (showing less pelvic floor muscle strength in women who've had a vaginal birth compared with a cesarean)...

For example, she doesn't deny it's true, and she doesn't tell personal stories of sneezing then peeing herself in the context of eliciting sympathy from or extending empathy to other women. Instead, Fischer almost celebrates incontinence-related pelvic floor damage as something to be taken entirely in your stride - something "actually pretty hilarious".
She describes herself as once "laughing uncontrollably at the trickle that was starting to run down my leg". Believe me when I say that this is not the same response I've had from women who've contacted me over the years...

But what I find most disturbing about this article is Fischer's suggestion that, "Peeing yourself as a mom is almost like a rite of passage or some sort of secret club that only we are privy to, and if nothing else, it gives us one more thing to laugh about and make the day a little bit lighter." It's akin to the idea that vaginal birth is a rite of passage that all women should want to (or have to) experience, and if they don't, then they've somehow failed the first test of motherhood..

Worse still, Fischer concludes by saying, "it's absolutely not worth opting for a scheduled surgical delivery simply because you're worried about ruining your favorite pair of underwear." This flippancy is just the usual belittling and misunderstanding of the very real, legitimate and evidence-based prophylactic reasons given by women who choose a cesarean.

Maybe with better information, education and communication, comments like those posted beneath the article might not be as commonplace either, but in truth, I think it's going to take some time...


Amy said...

Oh that is so obnoxious.

I had a vaginal birth with twins. I guess there are decent odds that I would have had some bladder issues no matter how they were delivered, but I suspect that the VB didn't help. I think my problem stems from slight prolapse, as I only had minor 1st degree tearing.

Currently, it is not a big deal, only when I get sick with something that makes me cough. But then, I have to cross my legs when coughing, and sometimes resort to pantiliners if I am sick.

My mother (2 VBs) had bladder sling/mesh surgery about 8yr ago at the age of 53. It helped her (and they also did ovario-hysterectomy, so instant menopause), but the surgery was no walk in the park. I suspect I may end up in her shoes some 25yrs from now. Not thrilled about that.

I could have opted for a Csection, but I was afraid of a painful recovery while trying to deal with infant twins. I didn't realize that a VB could do so much damage, even without major tears. Knowing what I know now, I wish I'd just gotten the section, but I'm done having children and the children got here safely.

theadequatemother said...

This attitude needs to change. I'm dealing with my own pelvic floor issues right now and the lack of useful information and compassion from caregivers is frightening. The Nurse Practitioner at the pelvic floor clinic told me that "we can't recreate the perfect vagina for you, you know" - as if my concerns about incontinence and painful intercourse are purely cosmetic. Oh, and my OB friend told me, in response my question about what the risk of progression with future pregnancies and vaginal deliveries that no one knows and they are "afraid" to do the study because they face so much pressure to lower the c/s rate.

The prevailing attitude is that this is just something that happens when you have a baby...like weight gain and stretch marks. Well, I think women should demand better and demand that some resources be put towards investigating the causes of and preventative measures to keep them from pelvic floor disability. Women are busy these days with parenting, with work, with sports. We don't sit at home with our legs crossed, with a bathroom always available and with no need to bounce around. How much productivity is lost by pelvic floor issues in female workers? What is the true economic cost? I am shocked that no one knows.

If my symptoms got significantly worse with subsequant children I'm not sure I'd be able to work as my job can keep me from a washroom for up to 6 hours at a time. There isn't a parent among us that would leave their baby in a wet or soiled diaper for 6 hours. And yet no one will take my concerns seriously. It's tut tut and there there it's just part of motherhood.

Anonymous said...

I just had my first child 4 months ago. I am a healthy, fit woman and had no fears whatsoever about labor. I KNEW it would go smoothly, as far as pushing a bowling ball out of the vagina can go, because "our bodies are made for this"...Well, my "6.5 lb" baby (according to my doc's estimates) turned out to be 8lbs, 9oz with a bucket head that wouldn't mold and she got stuck on my pelvic bone. My doctor said I was pushing harder than any of his patients he's ever had, and after 30 minutes with her heart rate dipping at the start of each contraction (emergency situation), he had to use forceps and REALLY pull to get her out. This would have been an emergency cesarian had my doctor been like most and not known how to use forceps, and I realized - oh yeah! Birth is natural, but so is DEATH, and my baby and I would have just been naturally selected right out of the gene pool had it not been for medical interventions.

So fast forward to the recovery room; I remember feeling a sudden urge to have a BM, and when I got up to go it just started coming out on its own! I had never heard ANYTHING about this possible symptom so I figured it must be a one-time thing. But it continued to happen every time I had to have a BM until I realized it was not getting better. The peeing myself (which was also happening) I could have lived with in contrast to the realization that I had fecal incontinence too! I couldn't find any info on this anywhere - no other women seemed to have gone through this, and it threw me into a depression knowing I couldn't leave the house without fear of crapping myself in public. I cried for days.

Anyway, loooong story short, I was able to see some of the best pelvic floor specialists at UCSF and have had to completely change my diet in order to "control the consistency of the poop" so I can have more time to get to a bathroom when I need to. My pelvic floor nerves were all damaged and they told me to give it a year to heal (!) - and explained that it still may not heal completely.

So I'd like that lady to tell me crapping your pants is "a way to make your day a little lighter - hehe" and I'll punch her in the stomach. And you can bet my doctor and I have decided that we will seriously discuss scheduling a cesarian for my next kid since the 2nd baby is typically larger than the first and the damage could be permanent next time.

Peeing and crapping yourself are serious stressors that affect people's quality of life. It has completely altered my life and to dismiss it as me "not wanting to get my underwear dirty" is misguided, self-righteous, and just plain stupid.