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Levator Ani Avulsion - Injury during Childbirth
Image courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash | Levator Ani Avulsion, Injury During Childbirth

Levator Ani Avulsion: Understand your pelvic anatomy to better understand your injury

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles positioned like a hammock along our saddle region.

The group of muscles attach from our pubic bone on the inside and then to our lateral pelvic walls with a bundle of collagen fibers called the levator arch, and attach to the ischial spines (the inside of the sit bones) and tailbone on the back side. During vaginal childbirth, the pubococcygeus muscle, a group of pelvic floor muscles, stretches 3.26 times more than its normal length to make room for the coming baby in the vaginal canal! As you can imagine, this may result in some perineal tearing and/or levator ani avulsion.

Levator ani avulsion occurs when muscle fibers of the puborectalis (the innermost muscle of the pubococcygeus group) are detached from its insertion on the pubic bone. This is somewhat frequently occurring, and about 20% of women experience an avulsion during their first vaginal childbirth. Risk factors include instrumental-assisted delivery (forceps presenting a higher risk than vacuum), older age at vaginal birth, second stage lasting longer than 2 hours, baby weighing over 8 pounds and 13 ounces, and those who had a grade 4 perineal tear.

What does this mean for women that have this injury?

As bad as it sounds to have an Levator Ani Avulsion, research has shown that it does not necessarily increase perineal pain in postpartum or beyond. However, it does put women at risk for pelvic organ prolapse either early in postpartum or in their later years.

Image Courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon, via Unsplash | Levator Ani AvulsionProlapse and Decreased Vaginal Sensation are common with a Levator Ani Avulsion

Pelvic organ prolapse is a weakening of the pelvic support system (fascia, ligaments, muscles) that leads to a descent or shift of organs bulging onto the vaginal wall.

Women with prolapse often complain of a vaginal bulge, heaviness in vagina, or like an old/dry tampon “hanging” out. Symptoms often increase with standing, lifting, after having a bowel movement and often improve in a restful lying down position. Researchers have found that women with Levator Ani Avulsion tend to have a larger levator hiatus size (vaginal canal opening) and decreased strength in pelvic floor muscles compared to those without. These two factors are likely contributors to a decreased support system leading to prolapse. Another common complaint is decreased vaginal sensation, which can lead to decreased pleasure during sexual activity. One study found that at six months postpartum, those with levator ani avulsion following a forceps-assisted delivery reported a decrease in these categories: arousal, natural vaginal lubricant, orgasm, and sexual satisfaction compared to their counterparts.

What can we do?

Knowing what we know about levator ani avulsions, we can be proactive. Regardless of type of pregnancy or complicated v. uncomplicated childbirth (regardless of severity of tearing or avulsion, or even type of delivery-yes cesarean section too!), it is a great idea to know and assess the health of your pelvic floor before and/or after childbirth. This way, we can improve any early symptoms you may be experiencing, educate early on to prevent symptoms from occurring, and overall empower the body physically and sexually. Pelvic floor physical therapists can help improve the strength and coordination of the pelvic floor muscles and improve the integrity of the other tissues that assist in organ support. They also help with many different types of sexual dysfunction through education, manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, and neuromuscular re-education. 

Pelvic floor physical therapists also assess and treat other common postpartum conditions such as:
  • Neck/midback/lowback pain
  • Bladder/Bowel symptoms (too much or too little, incontinence, pain, straining, etc.)
  • Movement patterns with baby (holding, breastfeeding, lifting)
  • Return to regular activity and/or exercise
  • Return to sexual activity/pain-free sexual activity

There is help and specialized pelvic floor physical therapists are here for you!



Cassadó J, Simó M, Rodríguez N et al. Prevalence of levator ani avulsion in a multicenter study (PAMELA study). Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 2020; 302:273–280 https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-020-05585-4.

Lien K, Mooney B, DeLancey JOL, and Ashton-Miller JA. Levator Ani Muscle Stretch Induced by Simulated Vaginal Birth. Obstet Gynecol. 2004; 103(1): 31-40.

Handa VL, Roem J, Boaquist JL, et al. Pelvic organ prolapse as a function of levator ani avulsion, hiatus size, and strength. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2019; 221(1): 41.e1–41.e7. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2019.03.004.

Handa VL, Blomquist JL, Roem J, et al. Levator morphology and strength after obstetrical avulsion of the levator ani muscle. Female Pelvic Med Reconstr Surg. 2020; 26(1): 56-60. doi:10.1097/SPV. 0000000000000641

García-Mejido JA, Idoia-Valero I, Aguilar-Gálvez IM, et al. Association between sexual dysfunction and avulsion of the levator ani muscle after instrumental vaginal delivery. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2020;99:1246–1252. doi: 10.1111/aogs.13852

What Our Patients Have to Say


Testimonial by Jackie W.

I was in multiple car accidents a decade ago, and I have been to many physical therapists through the years without success. They found the root of my lower back pain problems and after nearly a decade of barely being able to walk I finally can again without pain. They are also the best pelvic floor pts and the only ones who found the connection between my pelvic floor and lower back problems. If you need help with physical pain, they are your answer.

-- Jackie W., 1/19/17 via Yelp!

Testimonial by R.D., age 38

"I had a severe tear during childbirth that was not stitched together correctly and therefore healed poorly. Even after having a surgery a year later to remove the scar tissue, I was still having pain, and no one could explain why -- there was no overt 'reason' to explain the pain. I had tried other 'specialists' and even saw another physical therapist who had me do hip / leg stretches -- what a joke! I was about to give up and just 'live with it' until thankfully I kept searching online and found Heather.

Read more: Testimonial by R.D., age 38

Testimonial by Alexandra B.

Heather is without exaggerating AMAZING! After years of trouble with a certain part of my body, in no time, she made everything change back to equilibrium and to what would be considered normal. She explains everything in detail and therefore gives you a better understanding of why things are the way they are, and how you can work towards turning things around. I would highly recommend Heather for any type of Physical Therapy. She has created her own "Method/Therapy" through years of studying (with some of the greatest practitioners), practice and breaking down the issues of her past patients, enabling her to fine tune her own system. I'm so thankful to have found her, and I'm especially grateful for the quick recovery I've achieved, after years of distress. If you cannot afford her, I recommend you purchase her book. Although it may not be Heather in person, it can still help you to get on the right path to recovery!

-- Alexandra B., 5/20/2015 via Yelp!

Testimonial by Fritzette H.

I went to Heather after the birth of my third child. It was lucky, really, that I was referred to her, because my doctor had referred me to a surgeon for a possible hysterectomy or pelvic wall rebuild. Thankfully, I went to Heather before undergoing either surgery, she was able to fix the problem. She has studied extensively in women's health--even written a book about it--and was able to diagnose my problem, suggest a course of treatment (6 weeks), and then follow through with said treatment. By the end, as she said, I was as good as gold. Boy, was it worth it! Though uncomfortable to talk about, much less write about, it is worth getting the word out there. If you have painful intercourse, especially after birth or other trauma, the treatment may be as simple as Physical Therapy (with Heather, of course). I highly recommend her.

-- Fritzette H., 3/24/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by Julie T.

Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) has honestly changed my life. Before receiving treatment at Femina, I was going doctor to doctor to try and find the answer to my pelvic pain. It has taken me YEARS to find someone that can help fix this. It wasn't until my gynecologist recommended your clinic that I finally felt relief. My pelvic pain is almost gone, and granted I still have a lot more to work on with Laureen (my PT), my original problem is nearly cured. I am so grateful to her.

What is even better is she gave me practical exercises to do at home that were not tedious and provided instant (and lasting) relief. Although I mainly work with Laureen, my interaction with the owner (Heather) has been great. She is very generous, kind, and committed to her business.

It hurts to know there are women out there suffering who will never know or have the opportunity to work with women like Laureen and Heather because this issue is hardly talked about and this field is so rare. I hope more doctors and physical therapists see the value in this work and can relieve more woman of their pain.

-- Julie T., 12/4/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by Rosanna R., age 35

Heather has affected my life in the MOST POSITIVE way and I am forever grateful. My husband refers to her as the "sex doctor" so you can only imagine how happy he is with my therapy outcome.

After the birth of my son I suffered from "Vaginismus", however, at the time I just thought I was broken. My "broken vagina" affected me physically but it was an emotional struggle as well. Many women in my life also suffered with pain from sex after their babies were born so I knew I wasn't alone. They told me they "just got used to it" but I couldn't see myself living that way.

Sex wasn't just painful, it was literally impossible - IT DIDNT FIT!

Read more: Testimonial by Rosanna R.,...

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