Midwives and physios unite to prevent pregnancy-related incontinence

Most women who develop continence problems after childbirth do not seek help from a health professional, and many are too embarrassed to tell anyone.

In the video above you can hear from a patient, physio and midwife about how pelvic floor exercises can maintain muscle strength following pregnancy and birth

Many women who develop continence issues following childbirth are suffering in silence because of embarrassment over the condition.

These are the findings of a poll commissioned by the CSP and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as part of a joint initiative that aims to tackle the problem.

Almost 2,000 women took part in the survey, conducted by parenting website Netmums. One respondent in two reported having had continence problems following childbirth. Yet three in four of those affected said they had never sought help for the condition.

By working together, the society and the RCM hope to raise awareness of how to prevent pelvic floor muscle problems and reduce rates of incontinence following childbirth.

The collaborative project is due to be launched at the Primary Care and Public Health conference, in Birmingham this week.

CSP professional adviser Ruth ten Hove told Frontline: ‘Incontinence problems affect a large number of women and impact on their quality of life. But because of the stigma and taboo around the subject it tends not be talked about. Many women do not know that simple, straightforward and very effective treatments are available.

‘We want the NHS to make it easier for women to access these services, but we are also supporting midwives to help more women avoid developing the problems in the first place.’

New CSP resources

The project has led to a number of new jointly-produced resources, including a patient care leaflet, a short film and an e-learning tool for midwives.

The tool aims to equip midwives with the knowledge to teach pregnant women pelvic floor muscle exercises, identify problems and provide advice about the importance of maintaining pelvic floor health.

Ms ten Hove says the aim is to upskill midwives and enable them to teach women pelvic floor exercises.

‘Physios have the skills to teach the exercises but they don’t have frequent contact with pregnant women. And midwives often lack the confidence to teach the exercises,’ she said.

‘So we want to encourage midwives to be more aware about pelvic floor maintenance and to feel confident about teaching the exercises.’

A CSP and RCM patient care leaflet, Personal training for your pelvic floor, has been endorsed by the National Childbirth Trust.

Pelvic floor video

A short film about pelvic floor maintenance is available above. It includes interviews with a midwife, a physio and patient.

Katie Mann, a specialist physiotherapist at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust, discusses the benefits of specialist physiotherapy and pelvic floor exercises.

Jo Hilton, a mother of two from west Lancashire, had continence problems after giving birth. She describes how she made ‘dramatic improvements’, thanks to specialist physiotherapy.

Gina Augarde, birth centre manager and normal birth lead at North Bristol NHS Trust, also features in the film. In her talk about pregnancy-related incontinence, she says: ‘It’s a professional responsibility to inform pregnant women about what to expect, and to inform them about how they can prevent it.’

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