Variables Affecting Intra-abdominal Pressure During Lifting in the Early Postpartum Period

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Abstract

Objectives

Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) may contribute to pelvic floor health, although the direction and magnitude of such an effect, if any, are not yet known. Identifying individual characteristics, and in particular modifiable factors, associated with higher IAP during recovery from vaginal childbirth might serve to mitigate early pelvic floor dysfunction. The aim of this study was to identify characteristics associated with maximal IAP during lifting in postpartum primiparous women who delivered vaginally.

Methods

At 6 to 10 weeks postpartum, we measured maximal IAP, assessed via an upper vaginal sensor, as participants (enrolled in an ongoing cohort study) lifted a weighted car seat (12.5 kg). We evaluated whether the following independent variables were associated with maximal IAP: age, ethnicity, body mass index, height, abdominal circumference, weight gain during pregnancy, lifting time, breath holding during lifting, lifting technique, measures of muscular fitness, and days since delivery.

Results

In the 206 participants, weight, waist circumference, body mass index, and days since delivery were positively associated with mean maximal IAP during lifting, whereas IAP decreased as height increased. As the duration of the lifting task increased, mean maximal IAP during lifting also increased, but there were no associations between lifting technique or breath holding during lifting and IAP. Neither pelvic floor muscle strength nor abdominal muscle endurance was associated with IAP during lifting.

Conclusions

Other than measures of body habitus and lifting duration, we did not identify modifiable factors that could mitigate maximal pressures experienced by the pelvic floor during the early postpartum period.

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