Frequency, severity and risk factors for urinary and faecal incontinence at 4 years postpartum: a prospective cohort

Gartland D1, MacArthur C2, Woolhouse H1, McDonald E1, Brown SJ1,3. BJOG. 2015 Jul 14. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.13522. [Epub ahead of print]
Author information

1Healthy Mothers Healthy Families Research Group, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne, Vic., Australia. 2Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Health and Population Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK. 3General Practice and Primary Health Care Academic Centre, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic., Australia.


OBJECTIVES: To investigate frequency, severity and risk factors for urinary incontinence and faecal incontinence 4 years after a first birth.

DESIGN: Prospective pregnancy cohort study.

SETTING: Melbourne, Australia.

SAMPLE: A total of 1011 nulliparous women recruited in early pregnancy.

METHODS: Participants were followed up at 32 weeks of gestation; then at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months and 4 years postpartum.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Frequency and severity of urinary and faecal incontinence.

RESULTS: At 4 years, 29.6% of women reported urinary incontinence and 7.1% reported faecal incontinence. Compared with women having only spontaneous vaginal births, women who delivered exclusively by caesarean section were less likely to have urinary incontinence at 4 years postpartum (adjusted odds ratio 0.4, 95% confidence interval 0.3-0.6). Women who reported urinary incontinence before or during the index pregnancy, and those experiencing symptoms in the first year postpartum had increased odds of incontinence at 4 years, with the highest odds (6-12 times higher) among women who had previously reported moderate or severe symptoms. The odds of reporting faecal incontinence at 4 years were two to six times higher for women experiencing symptoms in pregnancy, and around four to eight times higher for those with symptoms in the first year postpartum.

CONCLUSION: Urinary and faecal incontinence are prevalent conditions 4 years after a first birth. Women reporting urinary or faecal incontinence during pregnancy had markedly higher odds of reporting symptoms at 4 years postpartum, suggesting a need for further investigation and elucidation of aetiological pathways involving nonbirth-related risk factors.

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