Control Your Choice, a UK-wide campaign was launched to empower women to seek treatment for common health conditions, in particular, Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI).
Why women need to control their choice
On International Women’s Day 2019 (Friday 8th March), Control Your Choice is taking the opportunity to reiterate the scale of SUI and help to unpick many of the myths and “scare stories” surrounding treatment options.
SUI is common among women of all ages and increases as you get older. Apart from aging, other factors include childbirth, obesity or some form of a pelvic floor disorder. It is estimated that 30% of women worldwide suffer with SUI – with around two thirds of these women living without an official diagnosis.
A survey of 2,000 women, commissioned of behalf of the #ControlYourChoice campaign, showed that despite any negative effects on their quality of life, relationships or ability to exercise around 9 out of 10 women living with SUI are likely to simply “put up with” the condition, rather than seeking treatment and advice.
The survey also showed that over a third of women (39%) waited up to 6 months before eventually seeking treatment and a staggering 12% waited 5 years or more.
As women stop to think about their health this Friday, let’s take a look at SUI treatment options and provide women with information to control their choice.
PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES
Pelvic floor exercises help to strengthen the muscles around the bladder and vagina. You may be refered to a specialist physio who will provide you with an exercise programme. Your programme will include completing a minimum of 8 muscle contractions at least 3 times a day for at least 3 months. Pelvic floor exercises are generally recommended before considering surgical options.
Sometimes women cannot contract their pelvic floor muscles by themselves. For these women a small probe can be inserted into the vagina. An electrical current will run through the probe to stimulate the muscles. Women may find the electrical stimulation difficult or unpleasant to use.
MEDICAL DEVICES / KEGEL TRAINERS
Inserting a device such as a Kegel balls into the vagina may help to strengthen the vaginal and pelvic floor muscles and reduce leaks. These devices are low risk although require commitment and effort! Some Kegel programmes are now using SMART technology to help with pelvic training. Using an app connected to the device, women can track their progress and see exactly how hard (or soft) they are flexing their internal muscles.
Bulking agents, such as Bulkamid®, are lesser-known than more invasive surgical treatments. A soft gel (the size of a pea) is injected into 3 or 4 locations in the urethral wall (the tube that urine comes out of). The procedure takes 5 -10 minutes. In most – but not all – cases, it is carried out under local anaesthetic.
Over 60,000 women have been treated with Bulkamid with no long-term complications reported. 3 out of 4 women said they were cured or improved after treatment. Patients “can’t believe” how quickly they are able to return to their everyday activities with most back at work – and even exercising – from between 24-72 hours!
Bulkamid has been used for over 10 years and is widely available on the NHS. Learn more about Bulkamid at www.bulkamid.com
Often referred to as “hitch and stitch”, a colposuspension is a major operation performed under general anaesthetic. Stitches are placed in the pelvis to lift the bladder neck upwards.
Colposuspension offers long term treatment for SUI – although the post-op recovery can take around 4 weeks with many women advised not to do strenuous exercise or lift anything heavy for six to eight weeks. Over half the women who have the operation are cured or greatly improved.
VAGINAL MESH (TVT)
Tape (commonly known as “TVT”) procedures involves a piece of plastic mesh tape inserted into the pelvis to support the urethra (the tube that urine comes out of) through incisions into the vagina and groin.
Following recent media reports and reviews concerning complications surrounding vaginal mesh, the procedure has been paused while extra precautions are put in place. Survey results also revealed that following the so-called “mesh media scandal”, almost half of the women questioned (48%) admitted that the press coverage would deter them from seeking any advice from a health professional about treatment options for SUI.
Whether you are a new mum or have “had enough” of putting up with incontinence don’t delay, use International Women’s Day 2019 as the perfect platform to speak to your GP for advice about the choices available to you.