"Struggling to settle with a damaged body" - A Swedish qualitative study of women's experiences one year after obstetric anal sphincter muscle injury (OASIS) at childbirth

Sex Reprod Healthc. 2019 Mar:19:36-41. doi: 10.1016/j.srhc.2018.11.002. Epub 2018 Nov 20.


Objective: This study aimed to explore women's experiences related to recovery from obstetric anal sphincter muscle injuries (OASIS) one year after childbirth.

Method: This is a qualitative study based on written responses from 625 women approximately one year after childbirth in which OASIS occurred. Data was obtained from a questionnaire distributed by the national Perineal Laceration Register (PLR) in Sweden. Inductive qualitative content analysis was applied for analysis.

Results: The theme "Struggling to settle with a damaged body" indicated that the first year after OASIS involved a struggle to settle to and accept living with a changed and sometimes still-wounded body. Many participants described problems related to a non-functional sexual life, physical and psychological problems that left them feeling used and broken, and increased worries for their future health and pregnancies. However, some women had adjusted to their situation, had moved on with their lives, and felt recovered and strong. Encountering a supportive and helpful health care professional was emphasized as vital for recovery after OASIS.

Conclusion: This study provides important insights on how women experience their recovery approximately one year after having had OASIS at childbirth, wherein many women still struggled to settle into their damaged bodies. Clear pathways are needed within health care organizations to appropriate health care services that address both physical and psychological health problems of women with prolonged recovery after OASIS.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anal Canal / injuries*
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lacerations / complications
  • Lacerations / psychology*
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / psychology*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Parturition*
  • Perineum / injuries*
  • Pregnancy
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Concept
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult