Pelvic floor symptoms from first pregnancy up to 8 years after the first delivery: a longitudinal study.

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      Despite the strong association between vaginal childbirth and pelvic floor dysfunction, genetic factors, pregnancy, advancing age, and lifestyle also play a role. The pelvic floor undergoes substantial changes during pregnancy which may contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction. On the other hand, these changes may be favorable to allow for vaginal delivery. However, there is a lack of studies assessing pelvic floor symptoms over time according to delivery mode, which includes women prior to delivery.


      The aim of this study was to describe urinary incontinence, vaginal symptoms, and bowel control symptoms from 21 weeks of gestation in the first pregnancy and up to 8 years after the first delivery, stratified by delivery mode.

      Study design

      This is a longitudinal observational cohort study. 300 nulliparous women were recruited during their first pregnancy. Pelvic floor symptoms were assessed at 21 and 37 weeks of gestation, and 6 weeks, 6 months, 12 months and 8 years after first delivery using the International Consultation on Incontinence Questionnaire (ICIQ) modules: the urinary incontinence sum score; the weighted vaginal symptom sum score; the vaginal-associated quality of life score; the bowel control sum score; and the bowel-associated quality of life sum score. Delivery mode at first delivery defined delivery groups as: normal vaginal, operative vaginal and cesarean delivery. A linear mixed model analysis was used to assess symptom scores over time and to assess the differences in symptom scores between the delivery groups.


      Of the 300 women included in the study, of which 193 attended the 8-year follow-up. Pelvic floor symptoms differed in women with vaginal and cesarean delivery. The symptom scores showed a non-linear statistically significant trend. In women, who delivered vaginally, there was an increase of urinary incontinence and vaginal symptom scores already during pregnancy. In women, who later delivered by cesarean, there was a decrease of symptoms scores during pregnancy, and overall lower symptom scores compared to women with vaginal delivery until 12 months after first delivery. Pelvic floor symptoms scores increased from 12 months to 8 years after the first delivery and exceeded pregnancy levels in all delivery groups, however overall symptom scores were low. Differences between delivery groups were not statistically significant.


      Pelvic floor symptoms differed in women with vaginal and cesarean delivery from the first pregnancy up to 8 years after the first delivery. These differences were recognizable already prior to first delivery.


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