Today I would like to share huge news for the prevention of maternal nerve injuries! A big thank you to Jennifer Gibson Webb, RN, BSN, CCRN, and Martha Sleutel, PhD, RN, CNS, C-EFM for their tireless work and advocacy to the medical community on behalf of all women who have suffered nerve damage from childbirth in their lower extremities
In May, Jennifer and Martha presented virtually to the American College of Nurse Midwives conference about lower extremity nerve damage from childbirth. Then in November, they virtually presented protocols for the prevention of LENI ( Lower Extremity Nerve Injury) at the AWHONN ( Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nursing) National Conference, which is a national conference for nurses. Jennifer was then was invited by AWHONN to record a podcast detailing her story, along with an anesthesiologist that helped rewrite some change in literature on the subject. This podcast was sent out to all members of AWHONN across the nation. They talk about nerve injuries from positioning and how to prevent them, what to look out for, and more. Check out the podcast here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/2gCHfucxuiTxnYc0e0xq31?si=29FwkFw8TSit-HxIjbFjXA
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It was started in 1988 to recognize the grief of bereaved parents and to show support to the families who have gone through such a tragic loss. As many as 1 in 4 known pregnancies end in miscarriage, but it can still be an incredibly lonely and isolating experience. So this October I decided to open up, share my experience with miscarriage, and hopefully help someone not feel as alone. I do want to warn that this story may be triggering for some.
Deciding to have a second child ended up being a bigger decision than I had originally planned. I had always hoped for 3 kids and never questioned having at least 2. But after the labor and delivery of my first, I wasn’t so sure:
Today’s blog post is by Jodi M, who suffered from severe peroneal and tibial nerve damage in 2016 after the birth of her first child, resulting in foot drop. A huge thank you to her for all her advocacy work.
I cannot believe that this is my third year participating in National Foot Drop Awareness day!! As hard as 2020 has been, I am beyond blessed that my journey has lead me to be celebrating another year of foot drop recovery! I had never heard of foot drop until I sustained a nerve injury giving birth to my first child that resulted in severe damage to the peroneal and tibial nerves in both of my legs. I hope that my story can help others who are dealing with foot drop as well as bring about awareness of maternal nerve injuries.
My journey through foot drop began on July 29, 2016. I had been in labor 26 1/2 hours, I was exhausted from pushing for almost 3 hours, but my daughter was finally here and she was healthy (as well as almost 2 lbs larger than predicted)!! There was so much joy as I watched my daughter being held by my husband and then our parents. I have continued to hold onto this memory because the joy I was experiencing in that moment would soon turn into panic and confusion.
It had not even been a day since my daughter had been born that it became apparent something wasn’t right with my legs. The nurses couldn’t understand why my feet were still numb and couldn’t move even though it had been more than enough time for the epidural to wear off. I was sent to have an MRI of my spine. The results came back normal so a neurologist was ordered to come and examine me the next day.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” were the words that came from my neurologist’s mouth after she examined me. I remember hearing that and feeling any bit of hope I had drain from my body. If this neurologist who was clearly very educated had never seen an injury from childbirth like mine, what did my future look like? Would I ever walk again? After 4 MRIs, a spinal tap, steroids through an IV, and an EMG not one medical professional I met with while at the hospital could tell me. “I don’t think this is permanent,” was the most hopeful phrase I received from a doctor during my week long stay.
After I was discharged from the hospital I was sent home with no diagnosis, a walker, instructions not to use the shower (I did shower using a seat) or try to get in the bathtub, and to make sure that someone is with me at all times. It was so difficult to function doing every day tasks and completely impossible to take care of my newborn on my own. My mom had to live with my husband and I for almost a year to help me take care of my baby. My legs lost so much muscle in such a short amount of time that it took all I had to be able to get from one room to the other. It was also mentally exhausting because I had to concentrate on lifting my whole leg up and then placing (or slapping) my foot on the floor otherwise my toes would just drag behind. I began in home physical therapy at 2 weeks postpartum and graduated to outpatient physical therapy around 6 months postpartum. I was in physical therapy until 15 months postpartum.
My recovery came in stages from barely moving my big toe, to dealing with excruciating neuropathy, to wiggling all my toes and flexing my ankles. I would say that with the severity of my injury it took me about two years to be in a place where I felt my healing was complete. The sensation in my left foot has never completely returned to normal, but that doesn’t hinder me from being able to walk or function in my day to day life. I am very thankful to have recovered from such a severe injury and I am very blessed to say that I had my second child this July without a repeat injury!!
When I was 6 months postpartum I found a Facebook group called Moms with Femoral/Peroneal/Sciatic Nerve Damage From Labor/Delivery. I was immediately connected with other moms who had suffered nerve damage and I no longer felt alone. Since then I have become an admin of this group and have worked with the other admins to help grow the number of members from around 700 to 1700!! Through this group other resources have been created by the admins for maternal nerve injuries. Our website (www.nervedamagefromchildbirth.com) was created as an educational resource that didn’t really exist for newly injured moms. We also have two advocacy groups. Maternal Nerve Injury From Childbirth Awareness (MICA) was created by two of our admins who are mother and daughter and Unhindered Steps who was created by one of our admin’s sons. We all work very hard together to advocate and bring about awareness to these types of injuries that leave moms feeling completely alone. I am very proud to work so closely with such a strong group of women!! I would not have been able to get through my recovery journey without them!
Today’s blog post features the tenacity of Farrah W, a mama who suffered from foot drop after the delivery of her child. Thank you, Farrah, for sharing your story. We wish you continued healing and success.
Toward the end of my pregnancy, I was experiencing nerve pain and a lot of health issues, so I was induced two weeks early. I didn’t really have a birth plan – I just had a good attitude/feeling about my birthing experience. I really thought it was going to be so magical and smooth. Everything started fine and I received an epidural with no problems.
Recently, nerve damage from childbirth was featured on Claire Renwick’s YouTube station “Someone You Should Meet.” Claire chatted with Paula Wroble, the founder of the facebook support group Moms with Femoral/Peroneal/Sciatic Nerve Damage from Labor/Delivery, and Martha Tutrani, the creator of MICA Month. So grab a cup of tea, maybe a box of tissues, and learn more about this injury and what we are trying to do about it:
As May and therefore MICA Month, come to an end, I wanted to thank the entire MICA and Unhindered Steps teams for their work. I would also like to thank the entire nerve damage from childbirth family, who shared MICA month updates, stories, and information.
When I created this website, I had the goal to not have any new mom flounder out in the world thinking they were alone in this injury, with no one to turn to and no support. I did for over 6 lonely weeks, until through a chain of “small world events” got connected with the Facebook support group (a HUGE shout out to Paula, the creator of the group. So many of us would have been so lost without you!). That group is private, as it should be, but that also makes it harder to find. I hoped that a public website would be more easily found and could then direct to the invaluable support group. I didn’t want to stop there and I wanted to share some of the information I spent hours finding. So I put my thesis thinking cap on and spent hours more researching medical journals, libraries and more to provide medically supported, well researched information to help with recovery, prevention and all the whys that come up with this injury. Not being a medical professional I wanted to cite everything, as you can see at the bottom of most pages.
Today’s post highlights Unhindered Steps, an advocacy partner of MICA month. Thank you to all of the volunteers for you tireless efforts to bring awareness to nerve damage from childbirth.
Most women imagine walking into a hospital to give birth and walking out with a newborn. However, few think that they would lose their ability to walk just by the natural act of giving birth. This is an uncommon condition, but it happens and unfortunately most medical providers have not seen it before!
Welcome to MICA 2020, year three of Maternal Nerve Injury from Childbirth Awareness Month. Our theme is Standing Up for Those Who Can’t. While we have been united in dealing with MICA as a global community, we are additionally united in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. I have great confidence, that with the perseverance and tenacity I have seen our MICA moms utilize to deal with nerve injury, they will use that same focus to cope with Covid-19. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7.