Introduction and hypothesis: Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is the most common type of urinary incontinence (UI) in pregnant women and is known to have detrimental effects on the quality of life in approximately 54.3 %. Pregnancy is the main risk factor for the development of SUI. This review provides details of the pathophysiology leading to SUI in pregnant women and SUI prevalence and treatment during pregnancy.
Methods: We conducted a PubMed search for English-language and human-study articles registered from January 1990 to September 2012. This search was performed for articles dealing with prevalence and treatment of SUI during pregnancy. In the intervention studies, we included studies that used a randomized controlled trial (RCT) design or studies comparing a treatment intervention to no treatment.
Results: A total of 534 articles were identified; 174 full-text articles were reviewed, and 28 of them met eligibility criteria and are reported on here. The mean prevalence of SUI during pregnancy was 41 % (18.6-60 %) and increased with gestational age. The increasing pressure of the growing uterus and fetal weight on pelvic-floor muscles (PFM) throughout pregnancy, together with pregnancy-related hormonal changes, may lead to reduced PFM strength as well as their supportive and sphincteric function. These cause mobility of the bladder neck and urethra, leading to urethral sphincter incompetence. Pelvic floor muscle exercise (PFME) is a safe and effective treatment for SUI during pregnancy, without significant adverse effects.
Conclusions: Understanding these issues can be useful for health-care professionals when informing and counseling pregnant women to help prevent SUI during pregnancy and the postpartum period.