Quality of Life in Women With Postpartum Anal Incontinence

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OBJECTIVE:To estimate the effect of anal incontinence on postpartum quality of life (QOL).METHODS:We conducted a longitudinal follow-up study of women reporting anal incontinence on a statewide postpartum survey to estimate the effect of anal incontinence on QOL up to 2 years postpartum. Quality of life was assessed every 6 months for 2 years based on the Uebersax incontinence impact questionnaire. The effect of severe anal incontinence on QOL was determined by multivariate logistic regression.RESULTS:A total of 1,050 women reported persistent anal incontinence and returned at least two completed QOL surveys during the 2-year study period. Among women with anal incontinence, 51% reported frustration caused by anal incontinence, 26% reported that anal incontinence affected their emotional health, 18.5% reported anal incontinence affected their child-caring abilities, and 16.2% reported a negative effect on social activities. One in three women with anal incontinence reported severe symptoms. Compared with women with mild anal incontinence, women with severe anal incontinence were four to seven times as likely to report that anal incontinence affected emotional health and the ability to perform daily activities. However, only 10% of women sought medical help for anal incontinence at 6 months, 13.5% at 1 year, and 16.7% at 2 years.CONCLUSION:Even 2 years after delivery, more than a quarter of women who experience a new onset of anal incontinence after childbirth report persistently negative QOL. Despite this, few women discuss anal incontinence with their medical providers.LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:III

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