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Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2005 Dec;19(6):913-24. Epub 2005 Sep 22.

Childbirth and pelvic floor trauma.

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Nepean Campus, Western Clinical School, University of Sydney, Penrith, Australia.


The issue of traumatic damage to the pelvic floor in childbirth is attracting more and more attention amongst obstetric caregivers and laypersons alike. This is partly due to the fact that elective caesarean section as a potentially preventative intervention is increasingly available and perceived as safe. As there is a multitude of emotive issues involved, including health economics and the relative roles of healthcare providers, the discussion surrounding pelvic floor trauma in childbirth has not always been completely rational. However, after 25 years of urogynaecological research in this field it should be possible to determine whether pelvic floor trauma in childbirth is myth or reality, and, if real, whether it matters for the pathogenesis of incontinence and prolapse. On reviewing the available evidence, it appears that there are sufficient grounds to assume that vaginal delivery (or even the attempt at vaginal delivery) can cause damage to the pudendal nerve, the inferior aspects of the levator ani muscle and fascial pelvic organ supports. Risk factors for such damage have been defined and variously include operative vaginal delivery, a long second stage, and macrosomia. It is much less clear, however, whether such trauma is clinically relevant, and how important it is in the aetiology of pelvic floor morbidity later in life.

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