Giving birth

Take that men! Childbirth is harder than running a marathon

New MRI imaging techniques confirm that you’re a total birthing bad-ass.

Photo: iStockphoto

Think you’re in pain? And tired? That’s nothing compared to childbirth! Photo: iStockphoto

My husband has run three marathons. I’ve birthed two children. Now, science says: I win!

Researchers at the University of Michigan argue that labour and delivery is the most traumatic event the human body can undergo, according to MRIs used to scan birth injuries as well as sports injuries. They found the effects of childbirth to be similar to those sustained in endurance sports.

But it’s not all about bragging rights. New imaging techniques show that pelvic floor injuries take longer to heal than previously thought (around eight months or longer), and that the traditional prescription of kegels might not help.

“If an athlete sustained a similar injury in the field, she’d be in an MRI machine in an instant,” Janis Miller, associate professor at the U-M School of Nursing, said in a press release. “We have this thing where we tell women, ‘Well, you’re six weeks postpartum and now we don’t need to see you—you’ll be fine.’ But not all women feel fine after six weeks nor are ready to go back to work, and they aren’t crazy.”

The study found 41% of women experience pelvic muscle tears, and up to 15% end up with injuries that don’t heal, including pelvic prolapse. Researchers hope the results will help changing the thinking around how we approach postpartum recovery.

Read more:
The truth about pelvic prolapse>
8 ways to give your pelvic floor some love>
Postpartum sex: Why it sometimes hurts>