We hypothesised that the pressure on the cervix increases with advancing gestation and it may lead to a cervical shortening and cause preterm labour in women with weak pelvic floor muscles. The aim of this prospective study was to measure vaginal resting pressure and pelvic floor muscle strength in the first trimester of pregnancy and to investigate their effects on labour. A study was conducted on the pregnant women with a low risk for preterm birth. The pelvic floor muscle strength and vaginal resting pressure were assessed in 320 pregnant women at their first trimester with a vaginal pressure measurement device. Fifty-two pregnant women were hospitalised for tocolytic therapy because of spontaneous preterm labour. Thirty-two of them (10.2%) had a preterm delivery despite the tocolytic therapy. Both the vaginal resting pressure (p = .009, 95%CI: 0.8; 5.9) and the pelvic floor muscle strength (p = .01, 95%CI: 3.5; 13.1) were significantly lower in the women with a preterm labour. Impact statement What is already known on this subject? The pelvic floor muscles have an essential role in continence and provide support to the pelvic organs. They also have an impact on labour. The pelvic floor muscles should distend to allow the passage of the foetus during labour. The rotation and flexion of the foetal head is due to the pelvic floor resistance. The effect of a vaginal birth on the pelvic floor's function is readily understood. On the other hand, the effect of the pelvic floor muscle function on labour is still controversial. What do the results of this study add? This prospective study showed that there is a negative association between the pelvic floor muscle strength and preterm labour. This is the first clinical study indicating that weak pelvic floor muscles may cause a preterm labour. What are the implications of these findings for clinical practice and/or further research? Pelvic floor physical therapy may be an alternative preventive strategy to reduce the risk of a spontaneous preterm birth.
Keywords: Pelvic floor; preterm labour; strength; vaginal resting pressure.