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Impact of Pregnancy and Vaginal Delivery on the Passive and Active Mechanics of the Rat Vagina

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    • Publication Information:
      Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2010.
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    • Abstract:
      Remodeling of vaginal extracellular matrix and smooth muscle likely plays a critical role in reducing the risk of maternal injury during vaginal delivery by altering the mechanical properties to increase distension and reduce stress. Long-Evans rats were divided into five groups to examine the passive mechanical and active contractile properties throughout pregnancy and postpartum: virgin (n = 17), mid-pregnant (Day 14–16, n = 12), late-pregnant (Day 20–22, n = 14), immediate postpartum (0–2 h after delivery, n = 14), and 4 week postpartum (n = 15). Longitudinal sections of vaginal tissue were loaded to failure uniaxially for passive mechanical or active contractile properties were examined. For passive mechanics, the tangent modulus decreased 45% by mid-pregnancy and immediately postpartum (p < 0.001). The ultimate strain continuously increased up to 43% higher than virgin animals (p = 0.007) in the immediate postpartum group. For active mechanics, the maximal contractile force was 36–56% lower through immediate postpartum animals, and was significantly more sensitive to K+ throughout pregnancy and postpartum (p = 0.003). The changes observed in the passive and active properties of the rat vagina are consistent with what would be expected from a tissue that is remodeling to maximize its ability to distend at the time of vaginal delivery to facilitate passage of the fetus with minimal injury.
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