, Volume 22, Issue 11, pp 1421-1427
Date: 26 Jul 2011

The effect of pregnancy and childbirth on pelvic floor muscle function

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Abstract

Introduction and hypothesis

The effect of pregnancy and mode of delivery on pelvic floor muscle function (PFMF) is unclear. Our aim was to prospectively evaluate the effect of pregnancy and childbirth on PFMF.

Methods

Subjective (Oxford scale) and objective (perineometry) assessments of PFMF were performed at 20 and 36 weeks gestation and at 14 weeks and 12 months after delivery. The resting pressure (RP) and the maximum squeeze pressure (MSP) were recorded.

Results

Four hundred three women (182 nulliparous and 221 multiparous) were recruited. Two hundred ninety-four (73%) delivered vaginally and 92 (23%) by caesarean section. RP and MSP improved significantly (p < 0.01) during pregnancy. After childbirth, a significant decrease in PFMF was demonstrated, which recovered completely by 1 year in majority of women.

Conclusions

There appears to be a physiological increment in PFMF during pregnancy. The pelvic floor weakens temporarily after childbirth but contractility appears to recover by 1 year irrespective of the mode of delivery.

Source of financial support

Ksenia Elenskaia and Inka Scheer were funded by the Mayday Childbirth Charity Fund. In addition, Ksenia Elenskaia received an unconditional education grant from Johnson & Johnson. Andrew Beggs acknowledges funding from the Mason Medical Research Foundation, Cancer Research UK and the Peel Medical Research Trust.