NICE have issued an update to the Urinary Incontinence guideline. “Since the publication of the 2006 guideline, new methods of managing urinary incontinence have become available on the NHS…Urinary incontinence (UI) is a common symptom that can affect women of all ages, with a wide range of severity and nature. While rarely life-threatening, incontinence may seriously influence the physical, psychological and social wellbeing of affected individuals. The impact on the families and carers of women with UI may be profound, and the resource implications for the health service considerable.”
Instrumental deliveries are associated with increased risk of bowel problems, urinary and anal incontinence. The amount of damage can be perceived as greater than a caesarean and certainly more than a straightforward vaginal birth,[i] affecting movement and causing significant pain during recovery. Ventouse seem to cause less damage and pain than forceps,[ii] with forceps particularly linked to increased incidence of pelvic floor issues. There is some suggestion that women should be counselled to consider a caesarean rather than forceps intervention when experiencing a birth that requires instrumental assistance[iii]
Bear in mind when assessing childbirth risks that while vaginal birth seems to increase the likelihood of pelvic floor problems, particularly where forceps are involved, it is not the only factor. Obesity, smoking, HRT and hysterectomies are also thought to be factors, as is the extra weight of pregnancy itself exerting pressure on these muscles. McDonagh Hull talks in more detail about this issue.
[i] S. Paterson-Brown, ‘Elective Caesarean Section: A Woman’s Right to Choose?’ Progress in Obstetrics and Gynaecology J Studd, Ed. (2000)14:202-15
[ii] M. Enkin, M. Keirse, J. Neilson et al A Guide to Effective Care in Pregnancy and Childbirth (Oxford University Press, 2000), Chapter 41 – ‘Instrumental Vaginal Delivery’
[iii] S.A. Farrell, ‘Cesarean Section Versus Forceps Assisted Vaginal Birth: It’s Time to Include Pelvic Injury in the Risk–Benefit Equation’ CMAJ, 166/3 (2002)