Pelvic floor disorders after vaginal birth: effect of episiotomy, perineal laceration, and operative birth

Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Feb;119(2 Pt 1):233-9. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e318240df4f.


Objective: To investigate whether episiotomy, perineal laceration, and operative delivery are associated with pelvic floor disorders after vaginal childbirth.

Methods: This is a planned analysis of data for a cohort study of pelvic floor disorders. Participants who had experienced at least one vaginal birth were recruited 5-10 years after delivery of their first child. Obstetric exposures were classified by review of hospital records. At enrollment, pelvic floor outcomes, including stress incontinence, overactive bladder, anal incontinence, and prolapse symptoms were assessed with a validated questionnaire. Pelvic organ support was assessed using the Pelvic Organ Prolapse Quantification system. Logistic regression analysis was used to estimate the relative odds of each pelvic floor disorder by obstetric history, adjusting for relevant confounders.

Results: Of 449 participants, 71 (16%) had stress incontinence, 45 (10%) had overactive bladder, 56 (12%) had anal incontinence, 19 (4%) had prolapse symptoms, and 64 (14%) had prolapse to or beyond the hymen on examination. Forceps delivery increased the odds of each pelvic floor disorder considered, especially overactive bladder (odds ratio [OR] 2.92, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.44-5.93), and prolapse (OR 1.95, 95% CI 1.03-3.70). Episiotomy was not associated with any of these pelvic floor disorders. In contrast, women with a history of more than one spontaneous perineal laceration were significantly more likely to have prolapse to or beyond the hymen (OR 2.34, 95% CI 1.13-4.86). Our multivariable results suggest that one additional woman would have development of prolapse for every eight women who experienced at least one forceps birth (compared with delivering all her children by spontaneous vaginal birth).

Conclusion: Forceps deliveries and perineal lacerations, but not episiotomies, were associated with pelvic floor disorders 5-10 years after a first delivery.

Level of evidence: II.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Episiotomy / adverse effects*
  • Extraction, Obstetrical / adverse effects*
  • Fecal Incontinence / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lacerations / complications*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pelvic Floor Disorders / etiology*
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse / etiology
  • Perineum / injuries*
  • Risk Factors
  • Urinary Bladder, Overactive / etiology
  • Urinary Incontinence, Stress / etiology
  • Young Adult