Many years after childbirth, women who delivered vaginally may have weaker pelvic muscles than mothers who had their babies by cesarean section, according to a new study. But that doesn’t mean it will cause them problems.
There’s some evidence from earlier research that pelvic muscle weakness could increase the likelihood of having urinary incontinence or other “pelvic floor” dysfunctions, but this study was unable to make that link.
“We don’t know the significance of the pelvic muscle weakness,” said Dr. Victoria Handa, one of the authors of the study and a professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
“What we do know from this paper is that there are some differences in pelvic muscle strength five to 10 years after childbirth by delivery group,” Handa told Reuters Health. “But what we don’t know is, will those differences in muscle strength translate into a greater chance of problems for women with ‘weakened’ pelvic muscles?”
Handa said it’s clear that childbirth does play a role in the development of pelvic disorders later in life, particularly with regard to incontinence, the inability to hold in urine, and prolapse, an inability to keep organs such as the uterus in place.
One study from Sweden, for instance, found that women who gave birth vaginally were more likely to have incontinence decades later than women who had a C-section.
To see whether pelvic muscle weakness could explain the relationship between the type of childbirth a woman had and her later risk for pelvic disorders, Handa’s group measured the muscle strength of 666 mothers.
Each of the women had given birth to their first child five to 10 years earlier.