New study finds increasing age as risk factor for decreased postpartum pelvic floor strength

New research finds increasing age is a risk factor for decreased postpartum pelvic floor strength. The prospective study published in the March edition of Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS), the official journal of the American Urogynecologic Society (AUGS), the leading professional organization dedicated to the treatment of pelvic floor disorders. The research observes changes in pelvic floor strength (PFS) in relation to the age of women postpartum. The results show that women age 25 years and older were 2.5 times as likely to have a decrease in postpartum pelvic floor strength.

One in three women will experience a pelvic floor disorder (PFD) in her lifetime. PFDs are not a normal part of aging, although they become more common as women age. Childbirth can contribute to the development of PFDs, with vaginal births doubling the rate of PFDs compared to Cesarean deliveries.

"To our knowledge, our study is the first to look at women's age at first pregnancy and assess overall risk of weakness of the pelvic floor. Very little is known of the effects of long-term pelvic floor dysfunction, so early intervention is important," said http://schema.org/Person">Lieschen H. Quiroz, MD, Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. "Today, birth rates are at a record low for women in their early 20s and on the rise for women in their 30s and early 40s. Our findings show the importance of women talking with their healthcare providers earlier about ways to regain their pelvic floor strength as part of their body's normal rehabilitation post-baby."

Key Study Findings

There were 84 women recruited for the study, and 70 completed the postpartum assessment. The average age was 28.4 years. All recruited participants underwent an examination, three-dimensional ultrasound and measurement of PFS in the third trimester and repeated at four weeks to six months postpartum using a perineometer. Researchers assessed the age of the women, finding no significant differences in body weight, baby weight, labor delivery, etc. Forty-six (66 percent) women experienced a vaginal delivery (VD) and 24 (34 percent) had a Cesarean delivery.

Decreased PFS was observed more frequently in the VD group compared with the Cesarean delivery group (68 percent versus 42 percent). In modified Poisson regression models controlling for mode of delivery and time of postpartum assessment, women age 25 to 30 years and older were over 2.5 times more likely to have decreased postpartum PFS compared with women younger than 25 years.

The authors note that future studies to examine the long-term impact of pregnancy and age on pelvic floor strength are warranted. The authors are completing a secondary analysis looking at the effects of a woman's first pregnancy on pelvic muscles, which is slated to be released later this year.

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