Two decades after giving birth to one child by vaginal delivery, women are facing incontinence problems at a rate three times that of women who did not give birth vaginally, according to research by the Sahlgrenska Academy in Sweden.
Researchers used information collected in the Medical Birth Registrar to contact women for the survey. Of the surveys sent out, more than 6,000 were returned. The survey included questions on urinary incontinence, menstrual status, height and weight and reproductive health (menopause/hormone replacement therapy, etc.) Women who gave birth vaginally suffered urinary incontinence in slightly more than 40-percent of cases. Women who gave birth by C-section, on the other hand, only suffered urinary incontinence in slightly less than 30-percent of cases. Follow the same women 10 years post birth and vaginal delivery causes an increase in urinary incontinence to three times that of women who gave birth by C-section.
Researchers noted that previous delivery method was not the only factor associated with increased risk of urinary incontinence. Women with a higher BMI are twice as likely to suffer urinary incontinence as women with a normal BMI. BMI is a measure of weight with a high BMI being associated with overweight or obesity.
While researchers believe women should take all risk factors into considerations before choosing a method of mode of birth, it is important to note that C-sections come with a unique set of health risks that may be more important than future risk of urinary incontinence. A C-section delivery may increase the risk of birth complications, fetal complications, recovery complications – not to mention the increased cost of a C-section delivery compared to a vaginal delivery.
Taking just increased risk of urinary incontinence into consideration, C-sections are not safer than vaginal deliveries, in cases where birth and pregnancy complications are not present. All risk factors should be taken into consideration, including long-term potential risk factors and side effects, when discussing birth methods with your obstetrician.
Source: Maria Gyhagan, et al. University of Gothenburg. 27 March, 2012.