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Risk of OAB, Stress Incontinence Increase after Vaginal Birth

May 22, 2014 2 min read

Symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB) and stress urinary incontinence (SUI) are more common and severe after vaginal birth when compared to cesarean birth, according to a new John Hopkins study.

Led by Victoria L. Handa, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, the study included 1,481 women who had given birth 5-10 years prior. Symptoms of OAB and SUI were assessed using the Epidemiology of Prolapse and Incontinence Questionnaire.

Data showed that women who gave birth vaginally were more likely to experience urinary leakage, frequent urination and urges to rush to the bathroom when compared to women who had a cesarean section. The risks of leakage during physical activity, coughing or sneezing (SUI) increased with each year after birth in the C-section group, but not in the vaginal birth group.

“This study suggests a substantial impact of vaginal delivery on the presence and on the severity of urinary symptoms, especially 5 years after delivery,” the authors wrote. “However, over the subsequent 5 years, the odds for urinary symptoms increase annual among those who delivered by cesarean, especially for symptoms related to SUI.”

Obesity also played a role in the likelihood of SUI and OAB symptoms. Obese women who gave birth vaginally were 47 percent more experience SUI symptom s and 43 percent more likely to experience nocturia (frequent urination at night) compared to non-obese women.

Obese women who gave birth via C-section were 2.5 times more likely to leak from stress incontinence when compared to non-obese women. The obese group also was almost 3 times as likely to experience frequent urges to use the bathroom and to leak due to urinary urgency. Risks of frequent urination and nocturia increased 67 percent and 62 percent, respectively, when compared to non-obese women. These results show that obesity increases the risk of urinary symptom, regardless of whether the woman gave birth vaginally or via C-section.

This study was reported online in the journal of Neurourology and Urodynamics.


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