Pelvic Floor Disorders: NICHD Research Goals

PFDs are a topic of intense research interest at the NICHD. Current research efforts seek to better understand PFDs, with the ultimate goal of decreasing the disease burden and improving the treatment outcomes. Specifically, the NICHD aims to:

  • Better understand the etiology of PFDs. Many factors are associated with the development of a PFD. The NICHD is investigating genetic predisposition and biologic mechanisms of PFDs, as well as environmental and lifestyle factors that may play either contributory or protective roles. This new knowledge will inform further research in prevention and treatment.
  • Identify interventions that prevent or lower the risk of PFDs. The NICHD is pursuing research on prevention in a variety of directions. For example, scientists are using an animal model to determine if directing adult stem cells to damaged areas could be used to facilitate the repair of birth-related injury and prevent PFDs.
  • Develop and evaluate improved treatments. NICHD research priorities include the development of nonsurgical and less invasive therapies, improved surgical approaches, and pharmacologic interventions. Related to these goals are NICHD efforts to understand the functional and quality-of-life effects of PFDs, define treatment outcomes that women value, and describe factors that contribute to good decision making about treatments.
  • Clarify the roles of pregnancy, childbirth, and obstetrical practices as risk factors for PFDs. Going through childbirth at least once is reportedly a factor in developing PFDs. Even so, the biologic mechanisms of pregnancy- and birth-related pelvic injury are not clear and remain active areas of research. Furthermore, the relative effects of pregnancy and of delivery on the risk of PFDs have yet to be determined. It is also not clear whether cesarean birth can reduce the long-term risk of pelvic floor problems. Researchers aim to clarify these and other issues related to pregnancy, childbirth, and PFDs.
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