Problems with your pelvic floor? Blame your firstborn

Research we're watching

Published: March, 2019

While cesarean delivery may mean longer recovery time after your baby is born, it may make it less likely that someday you'll need to cross your legs when you cough or sneeze.

A study in the Dec. 18, 2018, issue of JAMA found that women who delivered their first baby by cesarean had half the risk of developing stress urinary incontinence (which causes urine to leak when you cough or sneeze) or overactive bladder, compared with first-time moms who had a spontaneous vaginal birth.

The finding was based on first-birth information for more than 1,500 women. Of these, 778 had a cesarean and 565 had a spontaneous vaginal delivery. The remaining 185 had what's known as an operative vaginal delivery, or one in which the doctor had to use forceps or another device to deliver a baby vaginally.

Researchers followed the women for up to nine years to determine whether they developed pelvic floor disorders. The pelvic floor is a bowl-shaped group of muscles and connective tissue in your pelvis that supports your internal organs. When those structures are weak or injured, a woman may experience urinary incontinence, pain, and other problems.

In addition to having a lower incidence of stress incontinence and overactive bladder, women who had a cesarean also had a 70% lower risk of experiencing pelvic organ prolapse compared with the vaginal birth group. In this condition, the cervix and uterus drop from the pelvic cavity into the vaginal space.

It's important to note that pelvic floor disorders are treatable. Exercises may help strengthen the muscles to relieve some symptoms, and medication and surgery are other treatment options.

Image: © FilippoBacci | GettyImages

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