Elastometer may assist in reducing childbirth-related pelvic floor muscle damage

15 September 2017

Quantifying the properties of pelvic floor muscles (such as stiffness) may provide a deeper understanding into the process of childbirth, which may assist in minimising childbirth-related injury to these muscles. Thus, pelvic floor muscle stiffness could be a useful metric to determine which women are more at risk of pelvic floor trauma during vaginal delivery. Implementation of interventional measures to prevent or minimise the risk of these injuries prior to childbirth, is a research priority, as ultimately this will reduce the likelihood of pelvic floor muscle damage. In the long term, this can lead to a reduction in the likelihood of pelvic floor muscle disorders.

Jenny Kruger et al’s recent publication is the first study to attempt to quantify the stiffness of the levator-ani muscles (LAM), one of the pelvic floor muscles, in the late stages of pregnancy and after childbirth. Measurements of the LAM stiffness were performed using the elastometer which was developed by the authors and their research groups. The study also investigated the effects of other variables such as pregnancy and ethnicity on LAM stiffness before and after childbirth.

Results of the study demonstrated that quantifying LAM stiffness before and after birth is possible using the elastometer. It was also found that LAM stiffness is influenced by other variables such as pregnancy and ethnicity. Further research will determine whether the measurement of the LAM stiffness using the elastometer can predict muscle damage prior to childbirth. Studies involving the elastometer are currently ongoing, both in New Zealand and at the Sheffield Hospital in the UK to determine the utility of LAM muscle stiffness as an indicator of damage to the pelvic floor muscles during childbirth.

Read the publication here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/aogs.13186/full