A Gap in Women's Health Research : Optimizing Pelvic Floor Health After a Vaginal Delivery
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Women are sometimes seen as a workhorse, marveled upon for their reproductive ability to bring new life into the world. However, as a society, we often fail to recognize that the woman's body endures pronounced trauma during pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy and vaginal deliveries are two of the most important factors that put women at risk for disorders of the pelvic floor. In fact, research has found that first time childbearing has a highly associated link to pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor disorders affect an extraordinary percentage of women, with nearly one in four women in the United States experiencing one or more symptoms of pelvic floor disorder. However, there are no current prevention strategies for pelvic floor disorders, with the only current treatment being surgical repair. Throughout this paper I discuss pelvic floor disorders, exposing the lack of quality studies and thus the urgent need for research surrounding prevention of these disorders. I then describe an ongoing clinical study called Motherhood and Pelvic Health that aims to understand the influence of intra-abdominal pressure and physical activity on the strength of the pelvic floor following a vaginal delivery. The overarching goal of the study is to lay the groundwork for evidence-based interventions regarding the impact of vaginal delivery on deteriorations of the pelvic floor and symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. The goal is to then develop guidelines for women regarding the optimization of their postpartum pelvic floor healing. I propose that through the better understanding of the pelvic floor, postpartum healing, and the influence of biological and behavioral factors on the strength of the pelvic floor, as well as the production of proper guidelines for women, we will be able to significantly lower the prevalence of pelvic floor dysfunction.
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