Surprisingly, women who have had vaginal deliveries prior to their menopause share the same risk of developing urinary incontinence, as do their sisters who have never given birth . In other words, the risk for mothers is not higher compared to their counterparts.
Over 10 million people worldwide are estimated to suffer from incontinence to some degree or the other. It is a major health issue that consumes a large proportion of the health care resources. Stress incontinence is the involuntary leak of urine associated with activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing etc. It most commonly occurs in middle-aged women with positive history of repeated pregnancies and vaginal deliveries.
It has been long regarded that vaginal delivery increases the chance of developing urinary incontinence later in life. In fact, there has been an increased tendency for pregnant women to resort to elective caesarean sections for purpose of preventing future incontinence.
The researchers compared 143 pairs of biological, postmenopausal sisters from western New York and northern Vermont. The sisters were required to provide complete information about symptoms relating to pelvic floor disorders. Nearly 101 pairs underwent a clinical evaluation.
The results obtained revealed that there was no major difference in incidence of stress incontinence amongst women who had given birth (49.7%) and compared to women who had never given birth (47.6%). The researchers have hypothesized that a genetic predisposition could be more important in the determination of risk. Furthermore, the results showed that there was an increased tendency to suffer form incontinence amongst sisters in 63 percent of the cases.
The researchers have expressed the need for a critical analysis of family history and genetic predisposition in the risk for development of stress incontinence. Establishment of a definitive genetic risk can eventually pave way for the development of better treatment options and potential prophylactic interventions.