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The effect of antenatal pelvic floor muscle exercise on sexual function and labour and birth outcomes: A randomised controlled trial

      Abstract

      Background

      Pelvic floor muscle exercises (PFME) are recommended for treatment of urinary incontinence with less evidence available about the effect on female sexual function (FSF) and childbirth.

      Aim

      To investigate the effect of antenatal PFME on FSF during pregnancy and the first three months following birth as a primary outcome, and on labour and birth outcomes as a secondary outcome.

      Method

      200 nulliparous women were randomised to control (n = 100) and intervention (n = 100) groups. The women in the intervention group (IG) undertook PFME from 20 weeks gestation until birth and had routine antenatal care, while those in the control group (CG) received routine antenatal care only. The Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) was used to measure FSF at 36 weeks gestation and three months postnatal. Baseline characteristics and childbirth data were also collected and analysed using SPSS.

      Results

      There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups in terms of FSF scores during pregnancy and on childbirth outcomes. Sexual satisfaction was slightly higher in the CG [Mean ± SD, CG: 4.35 ± 1.45 vs. IG: 3.70 ± 1.50, (P = 0.03)] at three months after birth. However, 50% of women adhered to the PFME, and 40% of women did not resume sex by three months after the birth.

      Conclusion

      Though some trends were observed, the results showed no effect of PFME on sexual function or labour and birth outcomes. This needs to be interpreted considering the 50% adherence to PFME. More research is recommended.

      Abbreviations:

      FSF (Female Sexual Function), FSFI (Female Sexual Function Index), RCT (Randomised controlled trial), PFME (pelvic floor muscle exercises), WSLHD (Western Sydney Local Health District)

      Keywords

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