We Need to Talk about Incontinence

Julie Cornish, MASIC

We need to talk about incontinence. Not just wetting yourself, but when you have to rush to the toilet because you’re worried that might leak poo. Or when you find yourself staying at home or changing your routine to avoid having accidents.

This is not normal, this is not just something that women have to accept as a normal part of having a baby or getting older. There is something that can be done and if you are reading this and this sounds familiar then you are not alone. 1 in 10 women suffer from anal incontinence after childbirth injuries. Some women have ongoing problems immediately or soon after birth, whilst for others, they may only develop symptoms around the menopause.

The problem is that we are socially ingrained to not talk about bowels, that poo is something dirty. Which makes it so much more difficult to talk about it to your partner, your family, your friends for fear of stigma. But what you would find is that at least one or two would have a similar story of having had a problem, or still having a problem. We are encouraged to think of this as something that women have to put up with, by adverts of continence pads with young women in white ski suits having an ‘oops’ moment. The majority of women (80%) with bowel incontinence or urgency can be treated with physiotherapy, medication and lifestyle improvements. Surgical treatments are available if these fail to alleviate symptoms.

Having a baby is a natural and increasingly safe process with approximately 700,000 babies being born every year. Thankfully most births are straightforward and there are no lasting injuries for mother or baby. However, in some cases mothers delivering a baby through the birth canal, may develop some form of anal incontinence due to serious tears. (NB. Some women may develop incontinence due to nerve injuries who haven’t had a tear or even a vaginal delivery)

The MASIC foundation aims to help these mothers who often suffer in silence through embarrassment and the social stigma associated to their symptoms, unaware that there are many other mothers going through what they are experiencing. (www.masic.org.uk) We are a charity that has members which includes from all branches of health professionals involved as well as patients.

What are the objectives of the MASIC FOUNDATION? Our objectives are five-fold:
1. Campaigning to influence changes in healthcare policies to avoid these injuries and improve their detection;
2. Promoting awareness in the medical and healthcare professionals. Today’s doctors have little exposure to obstetric practice. General Practitioners, Midwives and Health Visitors are largely unaware of the frequency and long term consequences of MASIC;
3. Advancing awareness. The public are unaware that over 10% of mothers have some impairment of bowel control after birth;
4. Promotion of research into the causes, prevention and treatment of MASIC;
But Above All Else
5. Supporting mothers who have sustained these injuries and their families.

Visit the MASIC website (www.masic.org.uk) for further support and advice. Follow us on Twitter for updates.

So if this is you, or your best friend, or your mum then please talk about it, see your GP and seek treatment. #BreakTheLastTaboo

Mrs Julie Cornish MD, FRCS

Trustee of the MASIC foundation, Colorectal consultant in Cardiff

© Make Birth Better CIC 2019

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