Mon 15, Mar 2021

Tash's experience of faecal incontinence
Faecal incontinence after giving birth

Six months after giving birth to her daughter in February 2020, 28-year-old Tash found herself in a huge panic about the future.

 

“I rang my mum on the phone, like oh my god I’ve pooed myself. This is my life now. I’m just going to poo myself. This is it,” Tash says.

She nervously laughs, as the experience was far from funny. “That was really distressing.”

She had just experienced her first bowel leakage accident and didn’t know what to think. As a new mum with a career as a urology nurse, she was well-versed in bladder dysfunction (problems). Going through faecal incontinence herself came as a shock, even with her experience and knowledge.

“I was very much aware of the risks of bladder dysfunction post-birth, and during pregnancy, but when I experienced bowel dysfunction I was totally out of my depths,” Tash says.

It started in April with bowel urgency, where she found herself rushing to the toilet and not being able to hold on. She spoke to a GP and was waiting for a hospital physiotherapy appointment when her first leakage accident happened in August. The accident prompted her to dig out the hospital referral and make a call to follow-up, determined to get help. Incontinence was already affecting her life in huge ways.

ISOLATION

“I didn’t want to leave the house until I’d gone to the toilet for a poo that day. Because I just didn’t trust that if I was to have left the house, that I wouldn’t have had an accident. Or if I did get an urge, I wouldn’t be able to find a toilet in time.

“Already COVID was very isolating anyway… I didn’t want to leave the house in case I was to have pooed myself. It was very lonely.”

She says the fear of the unknown was the hardest part to deal with. Thoughts were running through her mind constantly. “Is this life now? Is this something I’m going to have to live with? It was that fear of not knowing if a physio was going to be able to help me or this was permanent damage,” Tash says.
 

This story was first published in Bridge Magazine. Subscribe and receive Bridge straight to your inbox.  

Still on maternity leave, she started thinking about how tricky it would be to return to her busy work, and how incontinence might affect her hopes for children in the future. The very first appointment with the physiotherapist gave her relief from all this worry.

“I can honestly say that from the first appointment that I had, she was just so reassuring and so optimistic that it was going to be okay. That we could fix it and that she could help me,” Tash says.

“… I left feeling in such a different mindset and so motivated to help myself because I knew that there was hope.”

She took everything in – regular pelvic floor muscle exercises, learning about the FODMAP diet and more. The best news is that Tash says her bowel function became “a hundred times better” after just three months of treatment. Her bowel habits are now back to how they were before giving birth.

“Now I feel happy. I feel I can just live my life like I always have. I can go out when I need to. If I feel the urge to go to the toilet, I’ve got ample time to get there.”

After her experience, Tash is even more passionate about encouraging other mums to get help for their bladder, bowel and pelvic health. With her career as a nurse, she was comfortable starting the conversation about incontinence but knows it can be a hard topic to raise.

“This is my day-to-day talk, it’s not weird for me to talk about bladder or bowel. So going to a doctor and talking about that was quite easy. Being a new mum is scary and isolating and having this additional problem was really stressful. I am thankful that I’m happy to go to the doctor and say ‘I’ve pooed myself, please help me.’”

THERE IS HELP AVAILABLE

Incontinence can be managed, treated or even cured in many cases. Your doctor, pelvic health physiotherapist or nurse continence specialist can all help. Phone the National Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66 for a confidential chat with an experienced Nurse Continence Specialist.

This story was first published in Bridge Magazine. Subscribe and receive Bridge straight to your inbox.  

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