Stretch marks and pelvic floor weakness.
Who knew there was a connection??? Well, apparently there is.
I read a fascinating article written by Salter et al. that was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in 2006. The researchers noticed that both women with pelvic floor muscle weakness and women with striae (stretch marks) have decreased collagen content. They conducted a study to see what relationship existed, if any, between the presence of stretch marks and pelvic floor muscle weakness.
Using a self-reported survey of 116 urogynecological patients, they asked the women to report on a number of symptoms indicative of pelvic organ prolapse and to also report of on the presence of stretch marks. Women were categorized into the prolapse group and the non-prolapse group and results were analyzed.
Typically, the following factors have been analyzed as risk factors for prolapse: age, weight, post-menopausal status, varicose veins, preterm labour, hemorrhoids, skin type, use of oral steroids, and number of pregnancies. This study analyzed these factors as well as the presence of stretch marks. The analysis showed the presence of stretch marks to be an independent factor, and in fact the greatest risk factor in developing pelvic organ prolapse! In other words, while skin type, age, weight, etc, may contribute to pelvic floor weakness (leading to prolapse), the presence of stretch marks is an even greater predictor of developing prolapse.
Over 50% of the women in the prolapse group reported having stretch marks, whereas less than 25% of women in the non-prolapse group reported having stretch marks. The article suggested that assessing for stretch marks could be an easy way to screen for or predict pelvic organ prolapse - and hopefully stop it from getting worse.
This is a very interesting study to me. It makes me want to ask the question of my pre and post partum moms – “do you have stretch marks?” before analyzing for a prolapse. However, this does not address which came first (the stretch marks or the pelvic floor weakness), and it does not hypothesize as to why. It also does not discuss the degree of prolapse experienced by the women. There may be a connection to collagen levels, but further studies need to be done to understand the exact mechanisms underlying the relationship.
My next question would be “if stretch marks indicate a weakness in the pelvic floor, what happens if one strengthens their pelvic floor muscles?” Would this help stretch marks resolve – or better yet, not appear at all? Perhaps unbeknownst to us, pre-natal pelvic floor conditioning actually helps to prevent of stretch marks. I'm now making my own hypothesis but,ultimately more research needs to be done on this topic.
For those of you with stretch marks, have you been assessed for a possible prolapse? If not, it’s a good idea to get checked. The Mama’s Physio can help you determine whether or not you have a prolapse and help you treat it.
Until next time Mamas, stay beautiful and blessed.
Salter, S., Batra, R., Rohrer, T., Kohli, N., & Kimball, A. (2006). Striae and pelvic relaxation: two disorders of connective tissue with a strong association. The Journal Of Investigative Dermatology, 126(8), 1745-1748.
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We are a team of experienced physiotherapists with a passion for women's health and well being. We focus on pelvic health in the context of the whole body. We care for pregnant and post-partum mamas and women at all life stages from teens to the young at heart. We are mothers ourselves and we are women. We love what we do and we are here to serve you.