Having a baby is no easy task and the health complications in mothers caused by childbirth can linger on for months or even years after the child is born, according to new research.

Globally, more than a third of women – or at least 40 million women – will likely experience a long-term health problem following labour and childbirth each year, researchers estimate in a study published Thursday in The Lancet Global Health and co-sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The most common post-natal conditions women experience beyond six weeks from childbirth are painful intercourse, low back pain, unintentional passing of urine and feces, anxiety, depression, fear of childbirth, perineal pain and secondary infertility.

Other less common conditions that also have severe impacts on women post-childbirth include pelvic organ prolapse, post-traumatic stress disorder, thyroid dysfunction, breast inflammation and nerve injury, among others.

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“Many postpartum conditions cause considerable suffering in women’s daily life long after birth, both emotionally and physically, and yet they are largely underappreciated, underrecognized, and underreported,” Dr. Pascale Allotey, director of sexual and reproductive health and research at WHO, said in a statement.

Click to play video: 'Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders'

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders

The study said many women will have a post-partum complication even if they have an “uncomplicated vaginal birth.”

The authors of the peer-reviewed paper, which is part of a series on maternal health, also noted “knowledge gaps” when it comes to medium- and long-term conditions arising from childbirth.

They stressed that policymakers and health-care providers should revisit their current post-natal care services and look at ways of improving them.

“To comprehensively address these conditions, broader and more comprehensive health service opportunities are needed, which should extend beyond six weeks postpartum and embrace multidisciplinary models of care,” the authors said.

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They also called for more funding to prevent and manage medium- and long-term consequences of labour and childbirth.

“Throughout their lives, and beyond motherhood, women need access to a range of services from health-care providers who listen to their concerns and meet their needs — so they not only survive childbirth, but can enjoy good health and quality of life,” Allotey said.

An October report showed that the use of forceps and vacuum delivery tools during labour resulted in an alarmingly high number of maternal traumas in Canada, such as severe perineal and cervical tears.

Among high-income nations, Canada had the highest incidence of maternal trauma stemming from deliveries involving forceps or vacuum extraction tools, the analysis published in the British Medical Journal revealed.

— with files from Global News’ Katie Dangerfield

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