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BJOG. 2001 Jul;108(7):726-32.

Anatomical and functional changes in the lower urinary tract during pregnancy.

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  • 1Martini Hospital, Groningen, The Netherlands.



To assess the prevalence and the development of urinary incontinence in nulliparous pregnant women, both subjectively and objectively, and to investigate the relation of incontinence with the mobility of the urethro-vesical junction measured by perineal ultrasound.


A prospective longitudinal study.


University Hospital and Martini Hospital Groningen, the Netherlands.


A cohort of 117 nulliparous pregnant women and 27 nulliparous non-pregnant controls.


Urinary incontinence was measured by a questionnaire and by a 24-hour pad test. The position of the urethro-vesical junction and its mobility were measured by perineal ultrasound.


Prevalence of urinary incontinence; mobility of the urethro-vesical junction, indicated by the displacement/pressure coefficient.


Up to 35% of the women reported urinary incontinence in pregnancy, and 20% of the women had a positive pad test. The angle of the urethro-vesical junction angle at rest and the displacement/pressure coefficient during coughing showed a significant increasing trend during pregnancy, but no changes were seen during the Valsalva manoeuvre. No relationship was found between subjective and objective incontinence data and the position and mobility of the urethro-vesical junction.


The prevalence of incontinence in nulliparous women as found by the pad test was significantly higher in pregnancy (20%) than in the non-pregnant control group (4%). Perineal ultrasound of the urethrovesical junction showed lowering of the pelvic floor occurring as early as 12-16 weeks of pregnancy. Serial measurements of the displacement/pressure coefficient suggest that the dynamic characteristics of the connective tissues of the pelvic floor remain unaltered,whereas a significant decrease in pelvic floor muscle contraction occurs. Since no relation was found between measurements of the urethro-vesical junction and incontinence, urinary incontinence in pregnancy is most likely explained by other factors.

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