Hormonal contraception and pelvic floor function: a systematic review

Int Urogynecol J. 2016 May;27(5):709-22. doi: 10.1007/s00192-015-2833-3. Epub 2015 Sep 25.


Introduction and hypothesis: Hormonal contraceptive use is common practice worldwide. Although the effects of hormone treatments in the pelvic region are well established, there is no clear evidence regarding their effects on incontinence, bladder, bowel, vaginal and sexual symptoms in premenopausal women. We hypothesized that hormonal contraceptives affect pelvic floor function. We therefore performed a comprehensive systematic review of published studies to determine the influence of hormonal contraception on pelvic floor functions.

Methods: Electronic literature databases were searched from database inception to March 2015. Keywords and medical subject headings searched for included terms and word variations for 'contraception', and 'bowel', 'vaginal', 'sexual' and 'urinary' symptoms. Studies were eligible if they looked at these symptoms in women taking hormonal contraception. Two reviewers independently screened studies for inclusion, and extracted data on study characteristics, quality and results. Data were combined where possible.

Results: Of the 429 citations identified, 13 studies were included in the review. Data were meta-analysed where possible and presented as prevalence. The results indicate statistically significant links between interstitial cystitis and oral contraceptive use at any point (ever) (OR 2.31, 95 % CI 1.03 - 5.16; p = 0.04) and vulvar vestibulitis and current oral contraceptive use (OR 2.10, 95 % CI 1.26 - 3.49; p = 0.004). The evidence is unclear in other areas.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that oral contraceptives may have an effect on pelvic floor function. They could increase the risk of painful bladder and vulvar vestibulitis, but their effect on dyspareunia is inconsistent. However, robustly collected prospective data to establish causal associations are needed.

Keywords: Bowel; Contraception; Oral; Sexual; Urinary; Vaginal.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / therapeutic use*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / therapeutic use
  • Cystitis, Interstitial / epidemiology*
  • Delayed-Action Preparations / therapeutic use
  • Dyspareunia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intrauterine Devices, Medicated*
  • Levonorgestrel / therapeutic use*
  • Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms / epidemiology*
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate / therapeutic use
  • Pelvic Floor / physiopathology
  • Premenopause
  • Vulvodynia / epidemiology


  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Levonorgestrel
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate