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Health & Medicine Vaginal Delivery Increases Risk of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Vaginal Delivery Increases Risk of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

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First Posted: Jul 02, 2013 04:24 PM EDT
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A new study shows that women who give birth vaginally may be at an increased risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse during the year following delivery.

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According to a study of Chinese women by researchers at Yale School of Medicine and Wenzhou Third People's Hospital, results show that giving birth can cause the pelvic floor to relax and possibly not recover to its former supportive state. Researchers also note, via the study, that these factors were not present in women who had given birth via cesarean section.

"The choice between vaginal birth and c-section is a complex one, and our results are not meant to promote one over the other," said Marsha K. Guess, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine, according to a press release. "Our data will be useful to women and their obstetric providers as they weigh childbirth options."

The Mayo Clinic notes that when a woman's muscles and ligaments supporting her pelvic organs weaken, they can possibly slip out of place and may need surgery to correct such support.

The observational study compared changes in pelvic organ prolapse during late pregnancy with changes at three different points in time within one year after delivery. Between April and May 2009, 110 women at the obstetrics clinic in Wenzhou Third People's Hospital in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China were evaluated. All participants were in their 36-38th week of pregnangy and planning to undergo an elective c-section or vaginal delivery.

The study found that many women develop moderate prolapse in late pregnancy. However, women underwent vaginal delivery or c-section after laboring were less likely to recover from pelvic organ prolapse compared to those who delivered after an elective c-section with no labor.

"Our study is among the few that provide information about short- and long-term effects of labor and route of delivery on pelvic floor support to determine if and when recovery of pelvic floor support structures occurs over long durations of time," said Guess, according to the release. "More research should be done to better identify women at greatest risk for, or predisposed to developing, long-term pelvic floor consequences."

More information regarding the study can be found in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 

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