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New Grant to Fund Investigations in Pelvic Injuries During Birth

The National Institute of Health (NIH) recently issued a rather large grant award to one university to look into issues related to pelvic damage during birth and the long-term complications that might accrue down the road. According to a recent report on the issue, researchers at the University of Michigan received the funds to study “birth-related pelvic floor injuries and their relationship to pelvic floor disorders like urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.” This refers to a common but often little-understood muscle injury that frequently occurs during childbirth.

According to the press release announcing the grant, this latest award is for $5.2 million. This brings the total awarded to the university in grants to understand the pelvic floor injury problem up to $15 million. This latest grant–the third for the research team–was provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health for Specialized Centers of Research (SCOR) on Sex Differences and the Office for Research on Women’s Health.

The need for the research and the goals are clear. More than 300,000 women are forced to undergo surgeries each year for pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence as a result of injuries they suffered during childbirth. With better understanding of how those injuries arise and lead to subsequent complications, the idea it to slowly lower the total number of women affected annually. Researchers have long known that vaginal birth vastly increase the risk of pelvic organ prolapse, but the precise link between the birth and the injury are mostly unknown. Of course, with expanded knowledge on the topic medical professionals with hopefully be able to both develop better treatment options for those affected as well as more benficial prevention tools to protect women who give birth vaginally.

It is perhaps surprising that there has not been more discussion of this issue, becase it is quite common and has serious affects on the lives of many mothers. For example, the story shares information about one new mother who experienced severe pelvic discomfort following the birth of her child. At first, never having given birth before, she thought the discomfort was the “new normal”–something she would just have to get used to. But over the years things only got worse. She began having significant urinary leakage. She also had more and more pain in that area. Even laughing, coughing, or performing certian basic exercises caused extreme discomfort. It wasn’t until later that she learned that she suffered from pelvic organ prolapse and needed surgery. The underlying problem was an injury that she had suffered during childbirth.

The mother in the above example, like many young mothers, go years without dealing with these issue. This allows the problems to worsen and forces the moms to suffer in silence. That should never happen. As one of the lead researchers on this new project noted: “Since a lot of women do not consistently see a physician for themselves after child bearing, it would be helpful to arm delivering physicians with tools to diagnose and treat the problem since it may be years before a mother will see a doctor again.”

Hopefully these research efforts bear fruit and new knowledge can be applied to helping mothers prevent or treat these painful injuries.

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