Reduce Your Risk For Incontinence

New research just out, finds that women who had trouble with incontinence during their pregnancies have a higher risk for persistent incontinence after delivery. However, the researchers reassure us that there are ways and means by which women can decrease their risk.

Spanish researchers studied over 1,100 first-time moms, 39% of whom reported experiencing leaky bladders at some time during their pregnancies. A further 10% of the women reported that they had suffered from anal incontinence, or the inability to control the passage of gas or stools. Women who suffered from incontinence during their pregnancies had a higher rate for incontinence symptoms at seven weeks after delivery. The overall figures were 16% with urinary incontinence and 7% with anal incontinence at 7 weeks postpartum.

The risk was higher in those women who had experienced complications of pregnancy. In this group, the risk rose by 3 times for urinary incontinence and 6 times for anal incontinence in comparison with those women who were continent during their pregnancies.

Vaginal Birth

The study, which was published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, added that women who had given birth vaginally were at 3 times the risk for incontinence after childbirth than were those who had undergone a C-section. Of the 639 women in the study who had had a vaginal delivery, 139 said they had symptoms of urinary incontinence while 57 of them said they suffered from anal incontinence.

Lead author of the study, Maite Solans-Domenech said that these results confirm the link between vaginal delivery and incontinence during pregnancy as contributing risk factors for postpartum incontinence. Solans-Domenech, who is with the Catalan Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Research in Barcelona, says that the findings also pinpoint methods by which these risks might be reduced.

For instance, earlier studies have found a link between gaining too much weight with an increase in the risk for incontinence during pregnancy, while in this study, excess weight gain was linked only to anal incontinence. These findings would suggest that limiting weight gain during pregnancy may serve as an important preventative measure for developing incontinence during pregnancy as well as during the postpartum period.

Kegel Exercises

Solans-Domenech also adds that it is already known that Kegel exercises, used to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, can lower the risk of incontinence due to the strain of pregnancy. The researcher notes that it is not reasonable or safe to advise women to opt for C-section surgery where the sole reason is for the prevention of incontinence.

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