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The hidden devastation of childbirth injuries: ‘Siblings are off the cards. I couldn’t go through this again’

Many women suffer debilitating pain and dysfunction long after delivering their babies. Elisha Clarke suffered severe pelvic floor dysfunction after giving birth to her son Will in 2019. She speaks of the trauma this caused and the impact it has had on her physical and mental health

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Elisha Clarke with her two-year-old son Will. Photo: Tony Gavin.

Elisha Clarke with her two-year-old son Will. Photo: Tony Gavin.

Elisha says she’s doing better now and is learning to live with the changes to her body

Elisha says she’s doing better now and is learning to live with the changes to her body

Elisha and son Will

Elisha and son Will

Women’s health physiotherapist Elaine Barry

Women’s health physiotherapist Elaine Barry

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Elisha Clarke with her two-year-old son Will. Photo: Tony Gavin.

An estimated 40pc of those who give birth vaginally suffer pelvic floor dysfunction that lasts for at least a decade. According to the MAMMI Study — a Trinity College study of the health problems of women during pregnancy and after childbirth — more than four in 10 women in Ireland experience stress urinary incontinence a year after giving birth, with 18pc suffering from painful intercourse.

From an anatomical perspective, childbirth is poorly designed. If you were to start from the beginning, you wouldn’t do it this way,” says Dr Maeve Eogan, obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Rotunda Hospital Dublin. “Whether you’re having a C-section or a vaginal birth, there’s a degree of trauma involved, and for a portion of people there’s significant birth trauma, which may cause problems in the longer term.”


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