Anal sex linked to increased risk of incontinence in both males, females

February 11, 2016 by Tyler Greer, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Anal sex linked to increased risk of incontinence in both males, females

Engaging in the practice of anal sex may increase risks for bowel problems, including fecal incontinence and bowel leakage, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Medicine study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

The incontinence risk is heightened particularly among who have sex with men, according to lead author Alayne Markland, D.O., associate professor in the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care in UAB's School of Medicine. The researchers analyzed data from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 6,150 adults. They found 37 percent of women and almost 5 percent of men reported trying anal intercourse at least once. Women engaging in anal sex were 50 percent more likely than their peers to report having at least once a month. The men's odds of incontinence were almost tripled.

"The study did not provide data on the frequency of the practice of anal sex and the impact of incontinence, but it did show a relationship between the practice of anal sex and fecal incontinence—more so among men than women," Markland said. "What we don't know is whether someone who has anal sex one or two times is at the same increased risk for fecal incontinence as someone who has anal sex regularly."

Overall, 4,170 adults ages 20-69 (2,070 women and 2,100 men) completed sexual behavior questionnaires and responded to fecal incontinence questions as part of the NHANES surveys. Overall, 8.3 percent of women and 5.6 percent of men in the study had fecal incontinence. Fecal incontinence rates were higher among women (9.9 percent) and men (11.6 percent) reporting anal intercourse than among women (7.4 percent) and men (5.3 percent) not reporting anal intercourse.

Fecal incontinence was determined to have occurred by researchers who reviewed responses to survey questions about leakage of mucus, liquid or stool and occurred at least monthly. The study showed that most adults who experience fecal incontinence have only occasional bouts of diarrhea. However, fecal incontinence can be chronic; it is often caused by muscle and nerve damage around the rectum, constipation, certain diseases, surgical procedures, and childbirth.

Markland says little is known about how anal intercourse might affect bowel function, even though the survey showed the practice is common among both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

"We really know very little about the connection between anal sex and fecal incontinence, especially among women," Markland said. "Older studies among predominately HIV-positive males showed that men who have sex with men may have impaired rectal muscle strength. But one thing I think this study does show is that it is important that both the patient and clinical provider need to be aware of the potential risks associated with anal incontinence and be willing to discuss what those risks may be."

Markland says previous clinical trials have shown that pelvic floor muscle or anal exercises can be an effective treatment for fecal incontinence, and she recommends those engaging in anal intercourse consider these exercises to help guard against decreased anal sphincter tone.

"These are also known as Kegel exercises," Markland said. "But, doing these exercises has not been studied as a preventive measure for lowering the odds of having fecal incontinence in a general population. All we can do is speculate."

Markland maintains an NHANES data set, and her primary research interest is in incontinence, specifically bowel leakage. She completed the study using indirect funding from several grants.

"I am always looking for potentially modifiable factors that may be related to bowel leakage," Markland said. "Anal intercourse has been understudied in our population in general, and anal incontinence and were evaluated only in men who have sex with men in older studies. I thought we really needed to look at both men and and assess the prevalence and associations between and fecal incontinence in both genders."

Explore further: Device approved for female fecal incontinence

More information: Alayne D Markland et al. Anal Intercourse and Fecal Incontinence: Evidence from the 2009–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, The American Journal of Gastroenterology (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ajg.2015.419

Related Stories

Device approved for female fecal incontinence

February 13, 2015
(HealthDay)—The Eclipse System has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat fecal incontinence in adult women aged 18 to 75, the agency said in a news release.

Dementia sufferers more likely to be diagnosed with urinary or fecal incontinence

August 27, 2013
Patients with a diagnosis of dementia have approximately three times the rate of diagnosis of urinary incontinence, and more than four times the rate of fecal incontinence, compared with those without a diagnosis of dementia, ...

Physicians offer new procedure to manage fecal incontinence, an underreported and debilitating condition

September 27, 2012
Fecal incontinence, or the inability to control the bowels, is a highly underreported and stigmatized condition, according to colorectal surgeons at Loyola University Health System (LUHS).

Caring for patients with fecal incontinence costs more than $4,000 per person each year

May 31, 2012
Care for patients with fecal incontinence costs $4,110 per person for both medical and non-medical costs like loss of productivity, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

Over half of seniors plagued by incontinence, CDC says

June 25, 2014
(HealthDay)—More than 50 percent of older Americans struggle with incontinence, a new government report released Wednesday shows.

New technique to prevent anal sphincter lesions due to episiotomy during child delivery

May 19, 2014
New minimally invasive method provides the obstetrician, any time before child delivery, with the outline of the anal sphincter innervation so that episiotomy can be ruled out or planned and guided to minimize sphincter damage.

Recommended for you

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.