Saint Mary’s researcher awarded national fellowship to explore the effects of childbirth on sensation and the link with pelvic floor dysfunction
Dr Charlotte Mahoney, Clinical Research Fellow in Urogynaecology
at Saint Mary's Hospital, has been awarded a National Institute for
Health Research (NIHR) Doctoral Research Fellowship to investigate
the impact of childbirth on sensation and how this relates to
symptoms of prolapse, urinary and faecal incontinence and sexual
difficulties, collectively called pelvic floor dysfunction.
The NIHR Fellowship is awarded to individuals who show
outstanding potential early in their research careers and will
support Dr Mahoney in completing her PhD on this topic.
Pelvic floor dysfunction impairs the quality of life of over one
third of women and can have debilitating symptoms such as
isolation, relationship breakdown, employment limitations, and loss
of independence. Despite this and the rising economic cost of
treatment, it remains a neglected area of women's health and an
important public health issue.
Research to date has demonstrated that vaginal birth damages the
nerve supply to the muscles of the pelvic floor, called motor
nerves. However, the pelvic floor also contains sensory nerves,
which transmit sensation, and it is likely these sensory nerves are
also damaged during childbirth. So far only motor nerves have
been studied in detail and there is little information about
sensory nerve damage.
This project will use neurophysiological tests to explore
sensory nerve function following childbirth and link this to
symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, as well as identify potential
obstetric risk factors that could be modified to reduce childbirth
related nerve injury in the future.
Dr Mahoney explains the importance of this research: "Award of
this NIHR fellowship will provide me with the opportunity for
dedicated research time to focus on this understudied but
widespread area of women's health. There is often a stigma
associated with pelvic floor dysfunction and women can feel
embarrassed discussing their symptoms and seeking treatment. By
conducting this research, we hope to find the answers on how
sensory damage during childbirth can affect pelvic floor function
and publish factual information that will help both medical staff