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The Experience of Stress Incontinence After Childbirth

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Background: Epidemiological studies have reported prevalence of stress incontinence ranging from 23 to 67 percent during pregnancy and 6 to 29 percent after childbirth, but little is known about how the condition affects women at this time. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of stress incontinence on women in their childbearing years. Methods: Interviews were conducted with 42 women who experienced stress incontinence at 8 weeks postpartum and 15 women who reported symptoms one year after delivery. Analysis of the qualitative data involved exploring themes and patterns, relationships and connections, contradictions and contrasts, and the language used within individual accounts and across the spectrum of narratives. Results: The results are presented within a framework that the women themselves adopted: day-to-day activities, putting the condition in some form of perspective, and feelings and emotions. For some women, stress incontinence had a great impact on their lives in terms of both their daily routine and psychologically, but others described it as a minor inconvenience that rarely disturbed their routine. Major concerns comprised the restrictions placed on the women, the worry or continual awareness stemming from the condition, and feelings of embarrassment associated with it. Twelve months after childbirth the effects appeared to have lessened, but a few women were still significantly affected, both physically and psychologically. Conclusions: Although many women experience physical and psychological symptoms of stress incontinence after delivery, this study demonstrated that few sought professional care or advice for their symptoms. Health professionals should be aware of the prevalence, and women's responses to, stress incontinence so that they can initiate appropriate support and care. Further research on stress incontinence on childbearing women is necessary.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-09-01

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