I've trained for a half-marathon. That was really hard. I've also given birth three times. That was way harder. Now new research out of the University of Michigan says birthing a baby is as hard on the body as running a marathon (yes, a full one!), and moms can sustain injuries equivalent to those of a serious, hardcore athlete.
*Texts husband: We aren't going for baby #4 after all.
"Childbirth is arguably one of the most dramatic musculoskeletal events the human body undergoes," researchers said. To prove it, they used MRI imaging that typically diagnosis sports injuries to look at childbirth injuries. Incredibly, researchers found that of the women studied, a quarter had stress fractures like those athletes sustain from long-distance running and other extreme sports. Nearly half had pelvic muscle tears (ouch!), and two-thirds suffered severe muscle strain (no kidding).
It's worth noting the participants in the study were already at a high risk for pelvic muscle tears. But researchers caution that up to 15 percent of all moms are likely to suffer some sort of injury during birth.
"Women with pelvic injuries often feel like something isn't right, but they don't understand why and can't get answers from physicians," says researcher Janis Miller. "A woman may have bladder problems, and in some cases prolapse of organs if the pelvic muscles are not functioning well enough to hold them in place."
She hopes her study will steer doctors away from a one-size-fits-all approach to postpartum care, as many women's bodies need more than the recommended six weeks to heal from birth.
The takeaway? If you just had a baby, and you're in pain, or something doesn't feel right, talk to your doctor. "We're not saying that every woman who gives birth needs an MRI nor that women should not do Kegel exercises," Miller says. "A key point is that if a woman is sensing that she has delayed recovery or unusual symptoms of discomfort or feels she just can't Kegel anymore, she should see a specialist."
And don't put so much pressure on yourself to "snap back" after birth. According to this study, it can take eight months or longer to heal from pushing out a baby!
*Sends new text to husband: Training for a marathon instead...
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.