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Young Mums Risking Pelvic Floor Health

Mums risking pelvic health

Pregnant women and young mums are ignoring their pelvic floor health, despite almost three out of four experiencing urinary leakage, new research has found.

A study of 1000 Australia mums and mums-to-be found that despite being in a high risk category for developing incontinence, 98 per cent failed to do the daily recommended level of pelvic floor exercises.

The Continence Foundation of Australia, which commissioned the research, today launched a national campaign to raise awareness of the importance of prevention and better management of incontinence among mothers, who are at high risk of developing incontinence due to the demands pregnancy and birth places on their pelvic floor.

The Managing the mother load campaign also aims to better educate maternity health professionals, particularly given the research found 42 per cent of women felt their doctor or nurse did not adequately inform them during their pregnancy about pelvic floor muscle exercises.

Continence Foundation executive officer Rowan Cockerell said clinical studies show pelvic floor muscle exercises can prevent and effectively treat incontinence among pre and postnatal women, and should form part of your daily routine. She said incontinence should not be regarded as a normal part of childbirth and women needed to prioritise their pelvic floor health.

“For mums juggling work, kids, appointments and a social life, exercising your pelvic floor three times a day might seem a lot, but they don’t take long, can be done anywhere, and are the simplest method to either cure or better manage incontinence,” she said.

“We want women to be able to play with their kids, exercise or laugh without fear of wetting themselves. And if they are experiencing any level of incontinence, they should seek professional help because it can be treated. In fact, left untreated it can get worse.”

The Foundation has developed a smartphone app, the Pregnancy Pelvic Floor Plan app available from iTunes and Google Play and a booklet, The Pregnancy Guide, available from the Continence Foundation and being distributed to expectant mums across Australia in the lead up to World Continence Week, June 23-29.

The Foundation has also joined forces with the Australian College of Midwives to develop an online course for midwives.

Australian College of Midwives executive officer Ann Kinnear said the partnership with the Continence Foundation and online resources for midwives would mean better health outcomes for women and reinforce the importance of pelvic health during antenatal classes.

“Pelvic floor health is an area where nurses should be at the forefront of the latest evidence-based information on pelvic health, before and after the baby is born,” Ms Kinnear said.

“The partnership is exciting and important because for the first time information on pelvic health and continence will be centralised through the one resource and made available to our 5000 members nationally.”

Other key findings of the research included:

  • 72 per cent of women said they had experienced incontinence.
  • 81 per cent of women who experienced incontinence haven't sought help from a health professional.
  • The prevalence of incontinence was greater for women who had had multiple births, with 80 per cent of women with three or more children experiencing unwanted leakage.
  • Just 2 per cent of women perform pelvic floor exercises three times a day, the recommended level.

The National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66) is staffed 8am-8pm Monday to Friday by continence nurse advisors who provide advice, referrals and resources to consumers and health professionals. Further information is also available at continence.org.au

*Pure Profile research conducted the national research in March 2014; involving 1000 women aged 20 to 45. 14 per cent of respondents were pregnant and 86 per cent had one or more children.

To interview Rowan Cockerell or Ann Kinnear, or for further information, contact Continence Foundation of Australia communications manager Alison McClelland on 03 9347 2522 or 0421 057 246, or Cameron Donovan from icon.pr on 9642 4107. Local health experts available upon request.

Fast Facts

  • About 4.8 million Australians – one in four people aged 15 years or over – are incontinence.
  • By 2030, the prevalence is estimated to increase to 6.5 million Australians.
  • Women are more likely to be incontinent than men – with the life stages of pregnancy and menopause a major contributing factor.
  • One in three women who have ever had a baby will wet themselves.
  • More than half of the women living in the community with incontinence are under 50 years of age (1.7 million).
  • An estimated 70 per cent of people affected by incontinence do not discuss the issue with anyone, including their GP.
  • The majority of people affected by incontinence can be cured or better managed.
  • Incontinence impacts self-esteem, motivation, dignity and independence.
  • Incontinence is more prevalent than asthma (more than 2 million), anxiety disorders (2.3 million) and arthritis (3.1 million).
  • In 2010, the cost of incontinence, including the burden of disease, was estimated to be $42.9 billion. 

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