A new study finds that millions of women experience long-lasting postpartum health complications. (Credit: Sarah Chai, Pexels)

For millions of pregnant people, the ramifications of carrying and birthing a child can be felt long after they leave the delivery room. Years, even.

Indeed a new study, which involved an international team of experts reviewing more than a decade of literature on the subject, indicates that millions of women – more than a third of them – experience long-lasting postpartum health complications. These include incontinence, lower back pain and dyspareunia, or pain during sexual intercourse. Psychological complications such as anxiety and depression were also observed.

“Over the past three decades, substantial progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality worldwide,” the team wrote in the recently published study. “However, the historical focus on mortality reduction has been accompanied by comparative neglect of labor and birth complications that can emerge or persist months or years postnatally.”

Acknowledging, as well as addressing, these myriad problems is paramount to the well-being of parents worldwide, experts add.

“Many postpartum conditions cause considerable suffering in women’s daily life long after birth … and yet they are largely underappreciated, underrecognized, and underreported,” Dr. Pascale Allotey, a director at the World Health Organization, said in its press release on the findings. 

Beyond broader recognition and understanding of the scope of the problem, researchers also suggest implementing additional tests to better catch and address potential complications – diagnostics that check the mental health, HIV status, reproductive well-being and more of people who are going to, or have recently, delivered children. Understanding the economic, social and environmental impacts of patients’ surroundings and circumstances is also critical.

Allotey added: “Throughout their lives, and beyond motherhood, women need access to a range of services from health-care providers who listen to their concerns and meet their needs – so they not only survive childbirth, but can enjoy good health and quality of life.”