Impact of pushing timing on occult injury of levator ani: secondary analysis of a randomized trial

W. Thomas Gregory, Alison G. Cahill, Candice Woolfolk, Jerry L. Lowder, Aaron B. Caughey, Sindhu K. Srinivas, Alan T.N. Tita, Methodius G. Tuuli, Holly E. Richter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Evidence of detachment of the levator ani muscle system is seen more frequently in patients with pelvic floor disorders. It has been suggested that passive descent of the fetus before pushing could be used to decrease operative vaginal delivery and levator ani muscle injury. Objective: This planned analysis aimed to determine whether immediate or delayed pushing was associated with an increased proportion of injury to the levator ani muscle system after the first delivery among nulliparous women. Study Design: The Optimizing Management of the Second Stage study was a multicenter randomized trial. Nulliparous women with term pregnancies and neuraxial analgesia were randomly assigned at complete cervical dilation to either immediate pushing or delayed pushing for 1 hour. A subset of participants consented to longitudinal objective pelvic floor assessments: (1) during postpartum stay (initial), (2) at 6 weeks (postpartum 1), and (3) at 6 months (postpartum 2) with transperineal 3-dimensional ultrasound. Following the completion of all visits by all subjects, saved 3-dimensional ultrasound volumes were assessed in a masked fashion. The outcome was “occult” levator ani muscle injury on the right or left, defined as a widening of the attachment of the levator ani to its origin utilizing the levator-urethra gap measurement. Measurements and proportions were compared between the 2 groups by study visit using the χ2 test or Fisher exact test for categorical variables and the t test or Mann-Whitney U test for continuous variables as appropriate. Results: Here, 941 of 2414 randomized subjects (39.0%) participated in the pelvic floor assessments: 452 in the immediate pushing group and 489 in the delayed pushing group. We obtained sonograms on 67%, 83%, and 77% of the pelvic floor assessment participants at the initial, postpartum 1, and postpartum-2 visits, respectively. Demographic and labor characteristics were comparable between the 2 groups; 94% of participants were non-Hispanic, and 50% of participants were Black. Levator ani muscle injury was noted in 77 participants (13.6%) at the initial visit, 99 (13.1%) at PP1, and 72 (10.6%) at PP2. There was no difference in injury between women in the immediate pushing group and women in the delayed pushing group. These findings did not change when the threshold (sensitivity) of levator ani muscle injury was adjusted to a less conservative measure. Conclusion: Among nulliparous women at term with neuraxial analgesia, the rates of occult levator ani muscle injury were not different between women undergoing immediate pushing and women undergoing delayed pushing in the second stage of labor. Further research efforts are needed to understand the development and potential prevention of subsequent pelvic floor disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)718.e1-718.e10
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • labor
  • puborectalis
  • pubovisceralis


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