Having a baby is called labor for a reason. Any woman who has given birth knows that labor and delivery are similar to endurance sports. There’s a 9 month training period, heavy breathing, and often more than a little grunting, pushing, and yelling. So we’re not entirely surprised by University of Michigan’s decision to use an MRI typically used to diagnose sports injuries to look at women’s bodies post-childbirth. Their findings from the images: up to 15% of women sustain pelvic injuries that don’t heal. And those Kegels that every doctor (and most other moms you know) swear by? For some women and/or some types of injuries, they don’t work at all!
The research team found that 25% of the women showed fluid in the pubic bone marrow or sustained fractures similar to a sports-related stress fracture, with 2/3 of the women showing fluid in the muscle, which indicates a severe muscle strain. 41% of the women sustained pelvic tears, resulting in partial to complete detachment of the muscle from the pubic bone. Since Kegels can’t reattach pelvic muscles to the pubic bone, they can’t help at all in that last situation!
The population in the U of M study included women who were already at high-risk for muscle tears, so the researchers caution that their group doesn’t represent all women (hence, the lower overall estimate of 15% of women sustaining these injuries) and don’t indicate that every women who gives birth should have an MRI afterward. However, the study serves a reminder for women to go to their doctors if they are having bladder issues, pain, or discomfort. Not everyone’s body simply bounces back after baby. Reassuringly, most of the women in the study healed by the 8 month return visit, presumably with additional help, physical therapy, or other medical treatment.