Anal function: Effect of pregnancy and delivery

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ObjectiveTo investigate the effect of pregnancy and delivery on anal continence, sensation, manometry, and sphincter integrity.Study DesignTwo hundred eighty-six nulliparous women in the third trimester completed a symptom questionnaire and underwent anorectal sensation and manometric evaluations. Three months postpartum, 161 women returned and the questionnaires and investigations were repeated together with anal endosonographic examinations.ResultsThe prevalence of fecal urgency before, during, and after pregnancy was 1%, 9.4%, and 10.5%, respectively; the prevalence of anal incontinence before, during, and after pregnancy was 1.4%, 7.0%, and 8.7%, respectively. Vaginal delivery, particularly instrumental, resulted in a decrease in anal squeeze pressures (P = .015) and resting pressures (P = .002) but had no effect on anal sensation. Postpartum anal endosonographic examination revealed sphincter disruption in 38% of women. There was no relationship between symptoms and anal manometry, sensation, or sphincter integrity. Vaginal delivery (P < .0001) and perineal trauma (P < .001) were significantly associated with sphincter defects.ConclusionVaginal delivery is associated with a decrease in anal pressures and increased anal sphincter trauma but has no effect on anal sensation. These changes were not related to anal symptoms. (Am J Obstet Gynecol 2001;185:427-32.)

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