Femoral Nerve Damage: A Physical and Mental Healing

Below is a story from mommy, Amanda T. from Tempe, Arizona, who suffered femoral nerve damage in her left leg in 2016 during the birth of her first child. Thank you so much Amanda for sharing your story with all of us!

      On June 30, 2016 I delivered my son vaginally. I had been in labor for 36 hours, had an epidural, and was in stirrups pushing for almost 3 hours. I remember the nurses saying my son’s head was stuck on my pubic bone for about an hour. When my OB was called in, he did a quick maneuver and my son came out almost immediately.
      The first time I got up to use the bathroom in recovery, my left leg buckled. Had a CNA and my husband not been right next to me, I would’ve hit the floor. Thankfully they caught me,  but it didn’t get recorded at the hospital as a “fall.” I didn’t want to be an inconvenience for the nurses, and since this was my first child, I thought it might be normal.

      My OB and the nurses continued to seem confused, but just kept saying it must be the epidural wearing off. My right leg was completely normal, but my left leg had zero movement and feeling from mid-thigh down.
      When I was released on July 2nd, I had a fall while exiting the hospital. When I went to step off the curb, I fell, spraining my ankle and breaking 2 toes. The nurses wanted to readmit me, but after almost 4 days in the hospital I just wanted to go home. I convinced my OB that I would be fine, and told him I would update him if my leg didn’t improve.
      About 2 days later I texted him and said my leg was still numb and not usable. I think this was when he finally realized something wasn’t right. He’s a 3rd generation OB, had been practicing for 20 years, but had never seen this.
      Thankfully he referred me to an excellent DO who diagnosed it in 5 minutes. She had seen FND only once before, but said it was a textbook case.
      She referred me to a physical therapist who had never seen FND, but had heard about it and was optimistic.
      The first month of my son’s life, I couldn’t walk while holding him. I was basically glued to my bed and our couch, and had to have people hand him to me to hold. It was heartbreaking.
      The thing I remember about my son’s first doctor appointment was that I fell in the parking lot and literally couldn’t get up. My husband had to put our son down to completely lift me off the ground. It was humiliating and it still makes me cry as I’m writing these words.
      About 2 weeks pp, I was standing in my living room holding my son because I just wanted to sway my baby back and forth like a mom is supposed to. My leg buckled again and I fell backward. By pure luck, neither my son or I hit the glass coffee table that was right by us.
      About 5 weeks postpartum my husband and I tried to take a little walk outside. By this time I had regained a little movement in my foot, so I was feeling positive. I fell again on the sidewalk 4 houses down because the sidewalk sloped and I couldn’t handle the decline.
      At 12 weeks postpartum, I was discharged from physical therapy. Because I didn’t have numbness, it was determined my nerve was healed. But I still couldn’t fully function. I still had to use my arms to get myself in and out of chairs. I still couldn’t squat, do a lunge, or walk without fear of falling, but insurance said I was “good enough.”
      At 6 months postpartum, my left leg was still very weak. I joined a pilates and barre studio and thanks to some amazing instructors who gave me modifications, I was able to strengthen my leg. Roughly one year after my son was born, I was able to start jogging again.
      My healing wasn’t just physical. I went through therapy to deal with the depression from the situation. There were many times I feared that I wouldn’t get better, and because it is an invisible injury, people often forgot.
      Now at 3 years postpartum, I still have occasional numbness if I squat too deep during exercises. And if I don’t exercise enough, the muscles around my knee get tight and wonky. Regardless of that, I feel lucky that I have as much functionality as I do.
      Looking back, I believe the injury happened while my legs were in stirrups and my son was stuck. His head was likely causing a compression of my nerve for an hour or more, especially considering he was crowning for a decent amount of time. I’m not super educated on anatomy, but having a giant head *right there* for an hour seems like a bad thing…
      Below are 2 pictures, one shortly after my son was born (notice we’re on the couch…), and one from his 3rd birthday.
Amanda t1Amanda t2

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