Background: As cesarean rates increase worldwide, a debate has arisen over the relationship of method of delivery to maternal postpartum physical health. This study examines mothers' reports of their postpartum experiences with pain stratified by method of delivery.
Methods: Listening to Mothers II was a survey of a total of 1,573 (200 telephone and 1,373 online) mothers aged 18 to 45 years, who had a singleton, hospital birth in 2005. They were interviewed by the survey research firm, Harris Interactive, in early 2006. Online respondents were drawn from an existing Harris panel. Telephone respondents were identified through a national telephone listing of new mothers. Results were weighted to reflect a United States national birthing population. Mothers were asked if they experienced any of eight postpartum conditions and the extent and the duration of the problem. Responses were compared by method of delivery.
Results: The most frequently cited postpartum difficulty was among mothers with a cesarean section, 79 percent of whom reported experiencing pain at the incision in the first 2 months after birth, with 33 percent describing it as a major problem and 18 percent reporting persistence of the pain into the sixth month postpartum. Mothers with planned cesareans without labor were as likely as those with cesareans with labor to report problems with postpartum pain. Almost half (48%) of mothers with vaginal births (68% among those with instrumental delivery, 63% with episiotomy, 43% spontaneous vaginal birth with no episiotomy) reported experiencing a painful perineum, with 2 percent reporting the pain persisting for at least 6 months.
Conclusions: Substantial proportions of mothers reported problems with postpartum pain. Women experiencing a cesarean section or an assisted vaginal delivery were most likely to report that the pain persisted for an extended period.