Recovery of abdominal muscle thickness and contractile function in women after childbirth

Mako Fukano, Yuka Tsukahara, Seira Takei, Sayaka Nose-Ogura, Tomoyuki Fujii, Suguru Torii

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Abdominal muscles may be both morphologically and functionally affected by pregnancy. Dysfunction of the muscles can lead to persistent postpartum low back pain. The recovery process of the abdominal muscles following childbirth is not well understood. This study aimed to demonstrate the changes in the thickness and contractile function of abdominal muscles during the first six months postpartum. Nine perinatal and 15 nulliparous females participated. The thicknesses and contraction/relaxation thickness ratios of the rectus abdominis (RA), external abdominal oblique (EO), internal abdominal oblique (IO), and transverse abdominis (TrA) were measured using ultrasound images from 36–39 weeks’ gestation until six months postpartum. The RA, IO, and TrA muscles were thinner in perinatal females than controls at 36–39 weeks of gestation (4.8 vs. 9.47 mm (RA), 5.45 vs. 7.73 mm (IO), 2.56 vs. 3.38 mm (TrA), respectively). The thinner IO muscle persisted for six months after delivery. The decreased TrA thickness ratio persisted until four months post-delivery. Abdominal muscle thickness and contractile function decreased in the postpartum period. Therefore, abdominal muscle exercises might help prevent postpartum symptoms; however, because deterioration of muscle function is significant in the first four months, careful attention should be paid to exercise intensity. The study limitation was a relatively small sample size, thus future studies should involve more participants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2130
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Feb 2


  • Abdominal muscles
  • Muscle thickness
  • Postpartum period
  • Thickness ratio
  • Ultrasound imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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