Pilot study to explore vaginal birth-induced pelvic floor injury and recovery

If a new mother sustains an injury to her levator ani muscle--the main muscle supporting the pelvic floor--during vaginal childbirth, that woman is at risk of developing a pelvic floor disorder. Such an injury can have a substantial impact on a woman's quality of life.

In collaboration with Dr. S. Abbas Shobeiri, Vice Chair, Gynecologic Subspecialties, INOVA Women's Hospital, Parag Chitnis, Assistant Professor, Bioengineering; Qi Wei, Associate Professor, Bioengineering; Guoqing Diao, Associate Professor, Statistics; and Siddhartha Sikdar, Professor, Bioengineering, Volgenau School of Engineering, are set to examine the utility of quantitative ultrasound methods for assessing vaginal birth-induced pelvic floor injury and recovery. This pilot study is supported by the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund and Inova Healthcare.

For their study, the researchers will enroll 30 women at >36 weeks gestation who are pregnant with a first child. In addition to three-dimensional images of anatomy, they will use novel ultrasound-based methods that provide detailed information about local tissue microstructure and mechanical properties such as tissue stiffness. The same data will also be collected at one day postpartum and six months postpartum.

These ultrasound-based measures acquired at different time points will be used to investigate birth-related changes to the pelvic-floor muscles. The researchers expect that this study will lead to the development of diagnostic methods that provide noninvasive and quantitative assessment of pelvic floor injury and systematic validation of these methods in predicting long-term pelvic floor dysfunction.

Funding for this project will begin in January 2020 and will conclude in January 2021.

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