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Cesareans Don’t Protect Against Incontinence

Contrary to popular belief, cesareans don’t protect women from incontinence. According to a new study, women who have had only cesareans are less likely to have urinary incontinence than women who have had all vaginal or both cesarean and vaginal births. However, rates of urinary incontinence are still relatively high (40%) among women who have only cesareans.

The study surveyed over 3,000 women in the UK and New Zealand at three months, six years, and twelve years postpartum. The primary research question was whether or not the method of delivery affected incontinence after 12 years.

The results of the study are summarized here:

This large 12-year cohort study has clearly documented that caesarean section was not protective for UI unless all the women’s deliveries were exclusively by caesarean section. If women had spontaneous vaginal as well as caesarean deliveries, the prevalence of UI was similar to that in women who only ever delivered spontaneously. Even after exclusively caesarean deliveries the prevalence of long-term UI was high, at 40%. For FI, there was no symptom reduction with exclusive caesarean section births. Whether or not the caesarean sections took place before or after labour had started did not modify these findings.