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Arange of environmental risk factors, with childbirth the most notable, have been associated with the development of pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. However, indications of genetic influence (positive family histories, ethnic differences) have prompted research into the heritability of measures of pelvic organ descent and joint mobility, which have also been associated with prolapse and incontinence. Genes appear to influence about half of the variation in these measures and, furthermore, the pelvic organ measures are associated with elbow hyperextension at a phenotypic level (r ≈ .2). We examined these measures in young, nulligravid women to determine if their association is due to a common genetic source. Data were collected from 178 Caucasian female co-twins and non-twin sisters, 50 of whom returned to be retested, which allowed reliability to be estimated and unreliable variance to be isolated in the multivariate analyses. Structural equation modeling was used to estimate genetic associations between latent elbow and bladder mobility factors for which heritabilities were estimated to be 0.80 and 0.64 respectively. The association between these factors appeared to be mediated by common genes (genetic r =.48, non-shared environmental r = −.06), with genes influencing latent elbow mobility accounting for 14% of the variation in latent bladder mobility. We speculate that genes influencing connective tissue structure may underlie this association.
The topic of pelvic floor assessment is increasingly attracting attention from gynaecologists, colorectal surgeons, urologists and physiotherapists. This is not surprising, many women who have given birth naturally are affected by pelvic floor trauma, and so are their partners. Health professionals deal with the eventual consequences of such trauma, especially pelvic organ prolapse and faecal incontinence.
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