Background. To evaluate the current anal sphincter function, the frequency of urinary incontinence and of dyspareunia in patients with earlier anal sphincter rupture following vaginal delivery.
Design. Retrospective case–control study between 1994 and 1999 at the Central Hospital of Helsingborg, Sweden.
Participants. Two hundred and eighteen women with a history of obstetric anal sphincter rupture and 436 matched controls.
Methods. Postal questionnaire regarding anal incontinence, urinary incontinence, dyspareunia and lifestyle alterations. Obstetric data were collected from hospital records.
Results. Of the 654 women included, 534 (82%) responded at a median follow up of 4 ears. Anal incontinence was significantly more common among patients with sphincter rupture. Sixty-one (33%) reported incontinence of flatus and 39 (21%) incontinence of liquid stools compared with 53 (15%) and 26 (7%) in the control group. Dyspareunia was reported by 26 (14%) patients and 20 (6%) controls. The symptoms of dyspareunia seemed to decrease with time. There was no significant difference in urinary incontinence between the two groups. A third of the women in the case group claimed that their problems with anal incontinence affected their daily lives, but only a few had asked for medical assistance.
Conclusions. Anal sphincter rupture is strongly associated with anal incontinence and dyspareunia several years postpartum. The complaints affect the daily lives of these women to a great extent.