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Johns Hopkins Bayview News - Common Childbirth Complications No One Wants to Talk About

Spring 2015

Common Childbirth Complications No One Wants to Talk About

By: Meghan Rossbach
Date: June 1, 2015

Surgical intervention helps new mom regain control

Meredyth Croteau pushing her sons on swings
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Meredyth Croteau enjoys time with her sons.

When 28-year-old Meredyth Croteau went into labor last year, she was expecting a fairly normal delivery. She had given birth to her first son Michael three years earlier and had no complications. However, the birth of her second son happened very quickly and was harder on her body. “I knew I would have some discomfort after I had Patrick, but the pain I was feeling just didn’t feel right,” says Croteau.

During delivery, Croteau had significant tearing of her vaginal tissue and perineal muscles (the muscles between the vagina and anus that support the uterus, bladder and rectum) that was repaired immediately after childbirth. She is just one of many women who experience tears as their babies make their entrances into the world. Tears can range from small nicks and abrasions to more severe deep lacerations affecting several pelvic floor muscles, as was the case with Croteau. At her postpartum check-up, her physician noticed things weren’t healing correctly and suggested another repair.

In addition to the discomfort, Croteau also was experiencing minor fecal and gas incontinence. Although it wasn’t obvious to others, she was very self-conscious and wanted to fix the problem as soon as possible. After a consultation with a physician near her Centreville home, Croteau decided to get a second opinion from Johns Hopkins urogynecologist Melinda Abernethy, M.D. “Vaginal tears during childbirth are pretty common,” says Dr. Abernethy. “However, Meredyth’s tears were pretty extensive and did not heal properly.”

To treat the fecal incontinence, Dr. Abernethy performed a sphincteroplasty that repaired the muscle between the rectum and vagina. She also mended the vaginal tissue that tore during delivery.

After a brief recovery period, Croteau began physical therapy to regain strength in her vaginal and perineal muscles. Now, at three months post-op, she feels back to normal and back in control.

“Before, I was taking frequent trips to the bathroom, which could be challenging with two little ones at home,” she says. “Now, I’m able to completely focus on my kids without being distracted by my health problems.”

If you suffer from fecal or urinary incontinence, call 410-550-7900 to schedule an appointment with the Johns Hopkins Women’s Center for Pelvic Health. For more information, visit


Taking Care of Yourself After Pregnancy

After pregnancy, many women are consumed with the care of their newborn and forget to take care of themselves. Dr. Abernethy recommends the following to ensure new moms are in optimal health.

  • Soak in warm water for 10 minutes twice a day. This will aid in healing.
  • Keep the perineum dry after bathing by using a hair dryer on the “cool” setting.
  • Do not use cream, douches or harsh soaps on the perineum or in the vagina.
  • Start doing kegels early. 
  • Most important, ask for help if you need it! You should feel better each day. If something seems “off,” tell your doctor right away.