Cesarean Section May Not Prevent Incontinence

Vaginal delivery has been thought to cause urinary incontinence through physical trauma and damage to nerves as such there is a suggestion that women who choose c-section over vaginal delivery might be protecting themselves against urinary or fecal incontinence down the road.

This might not be necessarily true according to the findings of a recent study.  Dr. Cathryn Glazener of the University of Aberdeen in the UK and her colleagues tracked almost 4,000 women who gave birth in the UK and New Zealand for 12 years after their delivery.

The researchers recorded how the first babies were delivered and kept in touch with the women through questionnaires to find out if they had more children and whether those children were born through c- sections or vaginal deliveries.  They also asked the participants if they had symptoms of urinary or fecal incontinence and if so, how often.

In women who had given birth only through vaginal delivery, 55% reported experiencing urinary incontinence compared to 59% of women who had at least one baby through vaginal delivery and one baby through c-section. In women who only had c-section, 40% reported experiencing urinary incontinence.

Regardless of how they delivered their children, women who were heavier, had given birth more times, and were older at their first delivery reported higher rates of incontinence.

Recent evidence shows that the rate of C-sections performed in the U.S. has been rising, from one in five births in 1996 to almost one in three births in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many doctors see this trend as risky because C-sections have been linked to a higher chance of breathing problems in babies and future pregnancy complications in moms.

Glazner and her colleagues concluded that, “Unless women are resolved to have all their deliveries by the abdominal (c-section) route (and their medical advisors agree), cesarean section does not protect from subsequent” urinary incontinence.

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