Pregnancy and childbirth are hard on a woman’s body — but a doctor’s mistake can make that hardship worse by leaving her incontinent long after her labor and delivery are over.
One of the questions medical professionals have tried to answer over the years is what causes some women to develop incontinence after childbirth and not others, despite seemingly similar circumstances. They’ve also tried to determine if anything can be done to minimize the risks that those women face. Research has finally provided some fairly clear answers:
1. While mild incontinence is common during pregnancy, only about 5 percent of women develop long-term problems with incontinence and still have symptoms a year after delivery. Doctors need to do more to identify those women with higher risk factors than others.
2. An overly-long labor can increase the risk of damage to the mother’s pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to long-term incontinence. This suggests that doctors should educate mothers-to-be on the risks of a long labor and agree, in advance, just how long labor should continue before a cesarean section is considered.
3. Women who have certain high-risk factors for long-term incontinence and pelvic floor damage can be identified through a careful screening process. They should be given enough information about the risks of long-term incontinence, given their medical condition, to make an informed decision about whether or not to have an elective cesarean delivery.
Elective cesareans may prevent damage to the mother-to-be pelvic floor muscles under several different conditions:
— The mother-to-be has had other children and developed stress incontinence during her previous pregnancies. If so, she faces an increased risk of long-term incontinence with subsequent pregnancies.
— Family genetics indicate that the mother-to-be has a significant risk of pelvic floor damage. Some of the most well-known genetic factor include race (white women have twice as many perineal tears and episiotomies as black women during delivery, which damage the pelvic floor) and a family history of stress incontinence from more than one first-degree relative.
— During the second stage of labor, electrodes can be used to monitor the condition of the pudendal nerve. If neuropathy, or a lack of feeling and response, is present, that indicates the potential for pelvic floor damage and long-term incontinence unless a cesarean is performed.
If you developed long-term incontinence after pregnancy, talk to a birth injury attorney today.
Source: UCLA Health, “Childbirth and Incontinence: Things You Should Know,” Amy Rosenman, MD, accessed July 05, 2017