Incontinence – it shouldn’t be a ‘taboo’ subject for new mums
A survey has revealed that large numbers of women are staying silent about incontinence after childbirth because they are too embarrassed to seek help.
The poll conducted for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) found that three quarters of new mums said they had never sought help from a health professional about incontinence and 56% of women feel embarrassed about having the condition.
Urinary incontinence is a taboo subject, a fact that 6 out of 10 women surveyed agree with. It shouldn’t be this way though, incontinence is a treatable condition. Despite this, people are too afraid to discuss the problem, leading to a lack of awareness and a multitude of people suffering in silence.
Why is incontinence more common for those who have just given birth?
The involuntary passing of urine, incontinence can affect both male and females but is especially common in women after they have given birth. This is because when a woman is pregnant, there is an increased amount of pressure on the bladder due to the expansion of the uterus. This weakens their pelvic floor muscles, which are responsible for controlling the flow of urine. Due to incontinence being a subject not often spoken about, many women are not aware that incontinence can be treated.
So what can be done?
There are two main types of treatments:
Medicinal: This consists of medications and surgeries which have proven to be effective. The only downside to this is that they can come with a long list of side effects and so are not recommended to new mothers. When caring for a newborn, you need all of the strength and energy that you have. The medications can cause lots of disruption due to their side effects.
Behavioural: This consists of things like pelvic floor muscle exercises which work gradually but can produce the same results as medicine. These are better suited to new mothers because they are easier to incorporate into one’s lifestyle and can also be done whilst taking care of a newborn.
There are devices available that can help individuals cope with urinary incontinence on a daily basis:
Pessary: This is a rubber device which can be inserted into the vagina. It supports the bladder to prevent leakage.
Intermittent catheter: This is a small tube that is inserted into the bladder to drain urine and is known as a urinary catheter. It is one of the most popular options because it is discreet and can be inserted yourself.
Absorbent products: This can be things like incontinence pads and underwear which can be effective, however these are not the most discreet of items.
Although these devices can help you to cope with incontinence, there are few things that you can do to treat it in the long run. One of the most common is to perform pelvic floor muscle exercises, commonly known as Kegel exercises. These can be done anywhere and often show results in approximately 6 weeks.
Kegel exercises are quite simple and straightforward, these can be performed by:
- Tensing the muscles (whether this is the front or back muscle) and do this for 10 seconds.
- Relaxing the muscles.
- Repeating this 10 times, and doing it at least 3 times a day.
This article has hopefully shared an insight into the treatments that are available. There is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to incontinence, and although you may not feel completely comfortable discussing it with your friends, it is important that you talk through your problem with a doctor. The visit is completely confidential and also gives you a good chance to ask any questions. The visit can also help you with reassurance and the doctor can put you at ease. You can also discuss the many opportunities that are available.