The role of mode of delivery on elastic fiber architecture and vaginal vault elasticity: A rodent model study

Keith T. Downing, Mubashir Billah, Eva Raparia, Anup Shah, Moshe C. Silverstein, Amanda Ahmad, Gregory S. Boutis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We report on an experimental study of the role of mode of delivery and pregnancy on the architecture of vaginal elastic fibers and vaginal vault elasticity in female Sprague-Dawley rats. In primiparous rats submitted to spontaneous or Cesarean delivery and virgin rats submitted to simulated delivery, the tortuosity of elastic fibers (defined as the ratio of length to end-to-end distance) was observed to decrease when measured from two days to two weeks postpartum. In addition, the measured tortuosity of elastic fibers in multiparous rats was greater than that of virgin rats. The tortuosity of elastic fibers of all rats measured at two days postpartum was found to be similar to that of multiparous rats. At two weeks postpartum the measured tortuosity of vaginal elastic fibers was indistinguishable from virgin rats, regardless of the delivery method. Borrowing from the field of polymer physics, a model is suggested that connects elastic fiber tortuosity to the resulting tension under an applied stress; fibers having high tortuosity are expected to provide less structural support than more linear, low tortuosity fibers. To probe the macroscopic effects in elasticity due to architectural changes observed in elastic fibers, we have measured the stiffness of the vaginal vault in each cohort using a pressure-infusion system. The vaginal vault stiffness of all primiparous rats measured two weeks postpartum was greater than that measured two days postpartum. In addition, the vaginal vault of virgin rats was stiffer than that of multiparous rats. These observations confirmed that vaginal vault elastic fibers undergo significant remodeling due to pregnancy and parturition, and that the complex remodeling may be a significant contributor to tissue elasticity. Remarkably, regardless of the mode of delivery or simulated tissue trauma, elastic fiber tortuosity is observed to decrease from two days to two weeks postpartum indicating the onset of repair and recovery of tissue stiffness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-198
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Elastic fiber
  • Pelvic organ prolapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Mechanics of Materials


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