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Randomised controlled trial of conservative management of postnatal urinary and faecal incontinence: six year follow up

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 10 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:337
  1. Cathryn M A Glazener, senior clinical research fellow (c.glazener{at},
  2. G Peter Herbison, associate professor2,
  3. Christine MacArthur, professor of maternal and child epidemiology4,
  4. Adrian Grant, director1,
  5. P Don Wilson, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology3
  1. 1 Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen Medical School, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD
  2. 2 Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand
  3. 3 Department of Women's and Children's Health, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago
  4. 4 Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham, PO Box 363, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT
  1. Correspondence to: C M A Glazener
  • Accepted 23 November 2004


Abstract Objective To determine the long term effects of a conservative nurse-led intervention for postnatal urinary incontinence.

Design Randomised controlled trial.

Setting Community based intervention in three centres in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Participants 747 women with urinary incontinence at three months after childbirth, of whom 516 were followed up again at 6 years (69%).

Intervention Active conservative treatment (pelvic floor muscle training and bladder training) at five, seven, and nine months after delivery or standard care.

Main outcome measures Urinary and faecal incontinence, performance of pelvic floor muscle training.

Results Of 2632 women with urinary incontinence, 747 participated in the original trial. The significant improvements relative to controls in urinary (60% v 69%) and faecal (4% v 11%) incontinence at one year were not found at six year follow up (76% v 79% (95% confidence interval for difference in means −10.2% to 4.1%) for urinary incontinence, 12% v 13% (−6.4% to 5.1%) for faecal incontinence) irrespective of subsequent obstetric events. In the short term the intervention had motivated more women to perform pelvic floor muscle training (83% v 55%) but this fell to 50% in both groups in the long term. Both urinary and faecal incontinence increased in prevalence in both groups during the study period.

Conclusions The moderate short term benefits of a brief nurse-led conservative treatment of postnatal urinary incontinence may not persist, even among women with no further deliveries. About three quarters of women with urinary incontinence three months after childbirth still have this six years later.


  • Contributors All authors contributed to the design, analysis, and writing up of the study. CMAG is guarantor

  • Funding Birthright (now WellBeing), Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London; New Zealand Lottery Grant Board; Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen. The health services research unit is funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive Health Department..

  • Competing interests None declared

  • Ethical approval Makerere Faculty of Medicine Ethics and Research Committee and Uganda National Council for Science and Technology.

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