A recent study looking at the likelihood of experiencing urinary incontinence in later life found that the likelihood is far greater following a single vaginal birth than following a single caesarean birth. The study questioned 6148 women and found that the prevalence of urinary incontinence trebled (10.1%) after a vaginal birth compared to caesarean (3.9%).
While the most significant risk factor for symptomatic prolapse was vaginal birth Maria Gyhagen (co-author of the paper) also pointed out that “There are many factors affecting urinary incontinence but obesity and ageing as well as obstetric trauma during childbirth are known to be three of the most important risk factors.”
So what does this mean in terms of birth planning?
While it is certainly an important finding it is just one more piece of information to take into account when evaluating the risks and benefits of both modes of birth. Alone, this increased risk of urinary incontinence should not be a reason to jump at choosing an caesarean birth. There are many other factors to consider and your own circumstances with regards your current (or planned) pregnancy should be taken into account before making any decision either way.
My book Caesarean Birth: A positive approach to preparation and recovery talks a lot about the benefits and risks of both modes of delivery and provides up to date research and statistics which you may wish to use to inform your debate with your practitioners.