Comparison of pelvic floor dysfunction 6 years after uncomplicated vaginal versus elective cesarean deliveries: a cross-sectional study

Sci Rep. 2020 Dec 9;10(1):21509. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-78625-3.


Clinicians and patients have traditionally believed that elective cesarean section may protect against certain previously ineluctable consequences of labor, including a plethora of urinary, anorectal and sexual dysfunctions. We aimed to evaluate fecal, urinary and sexual symptoms 6 years postpartum, comparing uncomplicated vaginal delivery and elective cesarean delivery, and to assess their impact on quality of life. We conducted a cross-sectional study to compare perineal functional symptomatology between women having singleton elective cesarean deliveries (eCS) and singleton uncomplicated vaginal deliveries (uVD). Women who delivered 6 years before this study were chosen randomly from our hospital database. This database includes demographic, labor, and delivery information, as well as data regarding maternal and neonatal outcomes, all of which is collected at the time of delivery by the obstetrician. Four validated self-administrated questionnaires were sent by post to the participants: the short forms of the Urogenital Distress Inventory, Incontinence Impact Questionnaire, Wexner fecal incontinence scale, and Female Sexual Function Index. Current socio-demographic details, physical characteristics, obstetrical history and mode of delivery at subsequent births were also registered using a self-reported questionnaire. A total of 309 women with uVD and 208 with eCS returned postal questionnaires. The response rate was 49%. Socio-demographic characteristics and fecal incontinence were similar between groups. After eCS, women reported significantly less urgency urinary incontinence (adjusted Relative Risk 0.55; 95% confidence interval 0.34-0.88) and stress incontinence (adjusted Relative Risk 0.53; 95% confidence interval 0.35-0.80) than after uVD. No difference in total Incontinence Impact Questionnaire score was found between both modes of delivery. Lower abdominal or genital pain (adjusted Relative Risk 1.58; 95% confidence interval 1.01-2.49) and pain related to sexual activity (adjusted Relative Risk 2.50; 95% confidence interval 1.19-5.26) were significantly more frequent after eCS than uVD. Six years postpartum, uVD is associated with urinary incontinence, while eCS is associated with sexual and urination pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cesarean Section / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery, Obstetric / adverse effects*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / methods
  • Fecal Incontinence / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pelvic Floor / physiology
  • Pelvic Floor Disorders / epidemiology
  • Pelvic Floor Disorders / etiology*
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse / etiology
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urinary Incontinence / physiopathology
  • Urinary Incontinence, Stress