Many years ago, when I was living in London, I worked with a woman who embarked on the Camino de Santiago solo in Spain. Each week, I would watch as she prepped and trained for this magnificent achievement. She didn’t know it, but at the time she lit a fire in me that I have been stoking for 22 years; that I too one day would do my own Camino trek.

Trauma can have a profound and long-lasting impact on individuals. If you have experienced a traumatic event in your life, you may benefit from traumainformed care. Many people experience trauma in their lives and often more than once. The experience of trauma is very individual as is the impact. Experiencing trauma can affect you psychologically, physically and socially. It can result in a person not feeling safe, not feeling they have a voice, not feeling valued, not trusting other people and not being able to connect with support and services.

Persistent Pelvic Pain (PPP) is defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) as ''pain in the area of the pelvis, present on most days for more than six months.'' PPP affects one in five Australian women and has numerous potential causes. We spoke to Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, Amy Steventon, Bachelor of Physiotherapy and Post Graduate Certificate Continence and Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation, from Jean Hailes for Women’s Health. Amy has worked with and supported numerous women who experience PPP.

Welcome to the Spring edition of the Bridge Magazine where we reflect on Women’s Health Week (WHW) and our community partnership with Jean Hailes, dedicated to the health and wellbeing of all women, girls and gender-diverse people.

In this edition we focus on persistent pelvic pain, which affects up to one in four women and one in ten men worldwide. As this is a WHW issue, we look specifically at persistent pelvic pain in women and how it can impact a woman’s health and wellbeing.

Margaret worked as a nurse continence specialist at Caboolture Community Health in Queensland for many years. People could self-refer to the clinic where they ran a three-month continence treatment program after an initial assessment by Margaret and a pelvic health physiotherapist.

Margaret loved her work as a community nurse, sometimes sharing her own personal journey with incontinence when listening to and supporting her patients.

I am 27 years old and wanted to share my story in the hope that it would help others who are going through a similar experience.

I was born in India and moved to Australia with my family when I was three. I have always had debilitating period pain. Mum always said that I needed to put up with it, as it had been the same for her. I could never use a tampon as it was too painful. When I was 15, I remember a GP suggesting I should go on the oral contraceptive pill, but Mum said I wasn’t sexually active, so I didn’t need contraception.

Authors: Dr Joan Ostaszkiewicz, Dr Jessica Cecil, Dr Elizabeth Pascoe and Elizabeth Watt

When Maureen’s husband was diagnosed with dementia 10 years ago it represented a gradual but significant change in the dynamic of their relationship.

“Going from a relationship of being a wife, to being a carer, you need to get past that barrier. I think initially it was the grief. For a year or so, I was grieving the loss of my husband, the loss of his ability to look after himself and the loss of intimacy in our marriage.

My name is Stephen Jones and I am recovering from cancer. I am 58 years of age (56 at time of surgery). I have a beautiful, supportive wife, Robyn and three adult children. I live in Melbourne. 

My cancer is of the prostate gland, a part of the body that is hidden deep in the recesses of the pelvic region in males. It’s not outwardly visible, its rarely spoken about and most men don’t even know its function. I didn’t really know what its function was, even though my father had the same affliction 25 years prior to mine.

“It’s so important to talk about incontinence and it helps to raise awareness, acceptance and understanding,” says John who experienced incontinence for the first time after prostate cancer surgery. Whilst he doesn’t deny it was a shock, he wants to talk openly in the interest of supporting others. “If we talk about it, it’s easier for others to understand the issue and remove the barriers to seeking help,” he observes.   

Over 5 million Australians, 1 in 4 people aged 15 years or over, experience bladder or bowel incontinence. Incontinence is not just a woman’s or an older person’s issue, nor is it an inevitable part of ageing. Incontinence is a common condition that can be treated and proactively managed. Incontinence can affect people at any age, but in many cases, it can be prevented, better managed or even cured. Seeking advice from a health professional is the first step to recovery. 

Margaret is a perfect example of a woman in her 70s who is busy, active and living her best life despite having to manage a challenging and sometimes changeable daily bowel routine. 

“I want to raise awareness about incontinence, open the dialogue and encourage people to feel comfortable talking about it,” says Caitlyn Davey, a journalist who lives with a neurogenic bladder. Caitlyn’s condition means she does not have control over her bladder and needs to self-catheterise, emptying her bladder with a catheter at regular times during the day, for the rest of her life.

Welcome to the Winter edition of Bridge Magazine. In this issue we acknowledge World Continence Week, 19 to 25 June, with a focus on the lived experience of incontinence. Over five million Australians, one in four people, aged 15 years or over, experience bladder or bowel incontinence. In this edition, we share the stories from a diverse range of people with lived experience, including Hawthorn Premiership hero and Brownlow Medalist Robert “Dipper” DiPierdomenico.      

Every year, the Continence Foundation of Australia calls for nominations for the Carer of the Year Award, which publicly acknowledges the vital role that carers play in supporting the health and wellbeing of so many in our community. The Carer of the Year Award was presented during the National Conference on Incontinence in June 2023.
The recipient of the 2023 Carer of the Year Award is Jenny Roe, who was nominated by continence nurse, Bronwyn Peck.

Ever since an article about Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico’s experience with urinary retention was published in the Herald Sun Newspaper in December 2022, he has been continuously approached by people with similar stories. “What they commonly say to me is this is happening to me too, what should I do?” he says. Sometimes he is approached by women who’ve recognised similar symptoms in their male partners and want them to seek help. “My advice is to always go straight to your GP,” he says. “Help is available so go and get it so you can get on with living a better life.”

When we think about the cost of incontinence, we mainly think about continence pads or products you wear to contain or absorb any leakage, but there are a lot more expenses faced by someone living with incontinence than this. The cost of incontinence can affect many aspects of a person’s life. The costs may be direct (e.g. continence pads), indirect (e.g. loss of wages due to sick leave) and intangible (e.g. psychosocial costs such as stress and decreased quality of life costs). To summarise, these include:

Welcome to the Autumn edition of Bridge. In this issue we focus on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), clarifying the differences between them and acknowledging that loss of bowel continence can be experienced by many people with these conditions.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a collective term for chronic inflammation in the digestive tract, namely Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The main symptoms are pain, diarrhoea, fever, weight loss, fatigue and potentially anaemia. Symptoms may be different for each person and range in severity from mild to more serious, depending on the level of inflammation. Given the similarity to other digestive conditions, several tests usually need to be done to ensure accurate diagnosis.

Although Rhiannon’s journey with Crohn’s disease began relatively recently, the striking thing about her is her determination to put the things she loves foremost in her life. Rhiannon went from being very fit and active to developing a condition which she says has completely changed her life. However, she is determined to get on and do the things she enjoys, like travelling and socialising with friends.

Whilst travelling in Europe during a heat wave several years ago, Emily became extremely hot and thirsty. Heading to the nearest water fountain she had filled up her water bottle and drained its contents before realising the water wasn’t suitable for drinking. “The next day I was standing in a queue for the Uffizi gallery in Florence when I realised I urgently needed to get to the toilet”, she says, “I literally ran to the nearest one and sat there for quite a while before I was confident to leave“.


Last Updated: Tue 19, Apr 2022
Last Reviewed: Tue 17, Mar 2020