Wed 18, Jun 2014
Outdated attitudes, such as accepting incontinence after childbirth as normal, are alive and well, even among the most educated in the community.
Secondary school teacher and mother of two Jessica Scurry, 37, was mortified to discover she had lost control of her bladder after introducing her eldest child, then aged three, to trampolining – one of her favourite pastimes before parenthood.
Her immediate reaction was one of resignation: “I realised then that I wasn’t ever going to be able to go trampolining again,” Jessica said.
“I didn’t tell anyone about it or do anything because I just accepted it as a fact of life post-babies.”
Jessica, who lives in Melbourne, said pelvic floor exercises were rarely mentioned during antenatal classes when pregnant with her first child, Frank, now four-and-a-half years old.
“I think I probably did a few pelvic floor exercises before and after the birth, but that was all,” she said.
While pregnant with daughter Mari, now 18 months, there was no discussion that she can recall about pelvic floor care, during antenatal classes or after the birth.
“I was sent home three hours after she was born. A nurse visited me at home for a follow-up on day two for about an hour, and she came back one or two more times after that,” Jessica said.
Again, no mention was made of her pelvic floor or incontinence issues. Other more immediate matters, such as difficulty breastfeeding, took precedence.
“I guess it wasn’t considered to be a pressing issue,” she said.
Even her mother, who is a midwife, never broached the topic.
“My mother, who is in the game, and has had five children, at no time talked to me about pelvic floor or continence issues,” she said.
“My father says mum’s always rushing off to the toilet anyway, so she probably has continence issues herself. He says, ‘she’s had five kids, it’s a fact of life’.”
Jessica is typical of many young mothers who remain ignorant of the importance of maintaining a strong pelvic floor, particularly during pregnancy and after childbirth.
A recent study, commissioned by the Continence Foundation of Australia, of 1000 Australian mothers and pregnant women, found that 98 per cent failed to do the daily recommended level of pelvic floor exercises.
Of the women surveyed, 72 per cent said they had experienced incontinence, and 81 per cent of women who’d experienced incontinence hadn’t sought help from a health professional.
Jessica believes there is still a stigma attached to urinary incontinence, even though it occurs in one in three women who have ever had a baby.
“Even in my mothers’ group, where a lot of things are talked about and laid bare, no-one talks about it. Incontinence is not discussed,” she said.
“A lot of people just use pads and accept incontinence as normal.”