Salt Lake City,
The Motherhood and Pelvic health study (MAP), Bridging physical and cultural determinants of
postpartum pelvic floor support and symptoms following vaginal delivery, uses mixed methods
research to study the influences of intra-abdominal pressure, physical activity and strength
on pelvic floor support and symptoms and the cultural context in which women experience
Vaginal delivery affects pelvic muscles, nerves and connective tissue. Despite the
similarities between vaginal delivery and other non-pelvic soft tissue injuries, research to
date has not focused on factors related to recovery from childbirth, but instead has been
directed at intrapartum interventions. A woman's pelvic floor derives its ability to
withstand loads from physical activities due to her inherent genetic make-up that sets the
foundation for her muscle, connective tissue, bone and other structures, her history of
injury, and her ability to recover from injuries. Over the past decade, investigators have
gained important information about some of the ways in which vaginal delivery affects the
structure and function of the pelvic floor.
However, investigators know very little about how pelvic floor function recovers after
vaginal delivery. This study will look at whether the non-pregnant milieu, including
physical and cultural factors, mediate the effects of vaginal childbirth. Study
investigators propose that pelvic floor support and symptoms 1 year after the first vaginal
delivery are affected by biologically plausible factors that may impact muscle, nerve and
connective tissue healing during the postpartum recovery period (first 8 weeks postpartum)
and pelvic floor function during the postpartum strengthening period (remainder of the first
postpartum year): in particular, timing and dose of moderate/vigorous physical activity and
inactivity, and timing of and exposure to a range of intra-abdominal pressures. Our
investigators further propose that perception of pelvic floor support and symptoms 1 year
after vaginal delivery are influenced by cultural attributes and beliefs. Finding
relationships between physical activity, muscular strength, intra-abdominal pressure and
pelvic floor support /symptoms will provide realistic targets for disease prevention and
pelvic floor health management.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States. Although the risks for
pelvic floor disorders differ among ethnic and racial groups, few studies have examined
these differences. There is a critical need for research among Hispanic women. In this
Program, our investigators will study personal and cultural aspects of Mexican-American and
Euro-American primiparas' experiences of the earliest changes that happen after childbirth
and make them understandable to women and clinicians, creating an opportunity for dialogue
across lay and medical discourses.
The aims of each project are summarized below.
PROJECT 1 Intra-abdominal pressure and postpartum pelvic floor support and symptoms
By using an intra-vaginal sensor to measure intra-abdominal pressure in primiparous women,
Aim 1: Determine whether IAP measured at 8 weeks postpartum during a) lifting and b)
abdominal muscle endurance testing predicts pelvic floor support and symptoms 1 year
Aim 2: Determine whether measures of muscular fitness modify the effect of IAP during
lifting on pelvic floor support at 1 year postpartum.
PROJECT 2: Physical activity, inactivity, and fitness: Impact on postpartum pelvic floor
support and symptoms
Aims: To determine, in primiparous women after vaginal delivery, whether physical activity,
sedentary time and the characteristics of body habitus and muscular fitness are associated
with 1) pelvic floor support and 2) pelvic floor symptoms 1 year postpartum.
PROJECT 3: The cultural context of postpartum pelvic floor support following vaginal
delivery: a comparative ethnographic analysis of Mexican-American and Euro-American women.
Aim: To describe primiparous Mexican-American and Euro-American women's experiences and
cultural knowledge of postpartum pelvic floor support changes.
Sub-aim 1: To characterize the ways women perceive and make sense of early changes in pelvic
floor support as well as the ways they use language and discourse to construct meaning about
those changes in the year after their first delivery.
Aim 1.2: To describe how primipara share experiences and cultural understandings of
postpartum pelvic floor support with mothers, partners, sisters, and confidantes in their
families and social networks.
Sub-aim 1: To explore the interplay of women's understandings of early changes in pelvic
floor support with sociocultural prescriptions/proscriptions regarding physical activity and
any resulting postpartum alterations of activity which they may undertake.
Estimated enrollment: 1530 women in third trimester to obtain final enrollment goal of 585
women at 1 year postpartum. (We estimate that, after initial enrollment, we will exclude
26.5% that deliver by cesarean, 10% that deliver before 37 weeks, and that 20% will withdraw
between delivery and 8 weeks postpartum, 20% will withdraw between 8 weeks and 1 year
postpartum, and 6% will have known pregnancy by 1 year postpartum, leaving 585 with final
- 18 years and older
- Estimated gestational age 28 weeks to 36 6/7 weeks
- Single gestation
- Obstructive pulmonary disease
- Collagen disorder such as Marfan's or Ehlers-Danlos
- Muscular dystrophy
- Prior surgical procedure for urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse
- Required ambulatory aid before pregnancy
- No access to telephone or computer during course of study