Scientific reports

Ovine multiparity is associated with diminished vaginal muscularis, increased elastic fibres and vaginal wall weakness: implication for pelvic organ prolapse.

PMID 28374826


Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) is a major clinical burden affecting 25% of women, with vaginal delivery a major contributing factor. We hypothesised that increasing parity weakens the vagina by altering the extracellular matrix proteins and smooth muscle thereby leading to POP vulnerability. We used a modified POP-quantification (POP-Q) system and a novel pressure sensor to measure vaginal wall weakness in nulliparous, primiparous and multiparous ewes. These measurements were correlated with histological, biochemical and biomechanical properties of the ovine vagina. Primiparous and multiparous ewes had greater displacement of vaginal tissue compared to nulliparous at points Aa, Ap and Ba and lower pressure sensor measurements at points equivalent to Ap and Ba. Vaginal wall muscularis of multiparous ewes was thinner than nulliparous and had greater elastic fibre content. Collagen content was lower in primiparous than nulliparous ewes, but collagen organisation did not differ. Biomechanically, multiparous vaginal tissue was weaker and less stiff than nulliparous. Parity had a significant impact on the structure and function of the ovine vaginal wall, as the multiparous vaginal wall was weaker and had a thinner muscularis than nulliparous ewes. This correlated with "POP-Q" and pressure sensor measurements showing greater tissue laxity in multiparous compared to nulliparous ewes.