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Incontinence silence

Posted: 21 May 2014 by Julie Griffiths

Half of women stay silent about incontinence after childbirth because they are too embarrassed to seek help, according to a poll conducted for the RCM and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).

Sad face by Juana Dark
Credit: Juana Dark
One in two women responding to the survey carried out by Netmums said they had never spoken to anyone about their problem and three quarters said they had never sought help from a health professional for the easily-treatable condition.

Six in 10 said they felt the subject was ‘taboo’ and 56% said they felt embarrassed about the problem, with 16% feeling ashamed about it.

The CSP and RCM are launching a joint initiative to prevent incontinence among women following pregnancy and birth and to ensure that those who need treatment are quickly referred.

This would reduce the misery experienced by many, and the need for more costly interventions such as surgery.

The joint physio and midwife-led initiative aims to ensure women are made more aware of the importance of pelvic health to prevent incontinence and are proactively taught how to exercise and maintain their pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and beyond. 

In addition, with many suffering in silence for years following pregnancy and birth, the RCM and CSP are encouraging GPs, nurses and health visitors to proactively promote advice on continence and to make quick referrals for those experiencing leakage.

The pelvic floor muscle exercises are clearly explained in a new leaflet produced by the CSP and RCM along with a video, which provides expert advice from a midwife and specialist women’s health physiotherapist, on both prevention and treatment.

The video also features an interview with a patient who was successfully treated for incontinence after a referral to a specialist physiotherapist. These resources are free to download here.

The CSP has also produced a Physiotherapy Works briefing outlining how physiotherapy is clinically and cost effective in the treatment urinary incontinence, which can be downloaded here.

RCM director for England Jacque Gerrard said: ‘For women with incontinence their whole day is planned around being able to stay close to a toilet and without help these problems will only continue to get worse. During pregnancy women are generally more receptive to health messages so this is an ideal time when midwives can be proactive in discussing prevention.’