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Obstet Gynecol. 2007 Jan;109(1):29-34.

Risk factors for anal sphincter tear during vaginal delivery.

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Loyola University Medical Center, Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, Maywood, IL 60153, USA.



To identify risk factors associated with anal sphincter tear during vaginal delivery and to identify opportunities for preventing this cause of fecal incontinence in young women.


We used baseline data from two groups of women who participated in the Childbirth and Pelvic Symptoms (CAPS) study: those women who delivered vaginally, either those with or those without a recognized anal sphincter tear. Univariable analyses of demographic and obstetric information identified factors associated with anal sphincter tear. We calculated odds ratios (ORs) for these factors alone and in combination, adjusted for maternal age, race, and gestational age.


We included data from 797 primaparous women: 407 with a recognized anal sphincter tear and 390 without. Based on univariable analysis, a woman with a sphincter tear was more likely to be older, to be white, to have longer gestation or prolonged second stage of labor, to have a larger infant (birth weight/head circumference), or an infant who was in occiput posterior position, or to have an episiotomy or operative delivery. Logistic regression found forceps delivery (OR 13.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] 7.9-23.2) and episiotomy (OR 5.3, 95% CI 3.8-7.6) were strongly associated with a sphincter tear. The combination of forceps and episiotomy was markedly associated with sphincter tear (OR 25.3, 95% CI 10.2-62.6). The addition of epidural anesthesia to forceps and episiotomy increased the OR to 41.0 (95% CI 13.5-124.4).


Our results highlight the existence of modifiable obstetric interventions that increase the risk of anal sphincter tear during vaginal delivery. Our results may be used by clinicians and women to help inform their decisions regarding obstetric interventions.



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