Toni – UK
I had my first child when I was 27. It was a normal delivery, but I had an episiotomy during it. Afterwards, for a few weeks, I felt I had no bladder control. My midwife had given me a leaflet in passing on pelvic floor exercises which I started to do but life got in the way and I would forget to do them. My urinary incontinence was not as bad as it had been, so I just thought that this was how things were meant to be. 22 months later I had my second child. My labour was quick, and I had a tear with lots of stitches and I felt numb for a week. This time pelvic floor exercises weren’t even mentioned to me but I tried to do them more often than before and things improved as long as I didn’t laugh, cough, jump, run or dance! I remember at a family wedding people wouldn’t take no for an answer when they asked me to dance! Thank goodness my dress was navy so you couldn’t see the big wet patch on the back! I never told anyone about my problem and avoided doing things that made it worse, wearing pads that I had to change several times a day. I felt embarrassed and unclean. I thought it was just me, nothing could be done, and this was how it was going to be forever. One day I saw an advert in the back of a magazine for a device that stimulated your muscles inside. Of course, I sent for it, but it was useless, a complete waste of money. I had never mentioned the problem to my husband but one day we were going through our finances together and he wondered what the payment for the thing I’d bought was for. It was so embarrassing to have to admit that I had very little bladder control but I’m so glad I did. I had lived with this problem silently for ten years. My husband arranged for me to see one of his colleagues who I thought was a gynaecologist and obstetrician, but it turned out she was an urogynaecologist, something I’d never heard of!
The relief of speaking to someone who understood what was going on was inexplicable. I had tests called Urodynamic Studies that tested my bladder function and finally my specialist advised I have a procedure called a Tension Free Vaginal tape (TVT) which I understood was the insertion of a mesh underneath my urethra secured with a tape. A date was arranged for the procedure, and I couldn’t wait. I was in hospital for about 36 hours (this was over 20 years ago so it’s difficult to remember exact details). The procedure was done under a general anaesthetic and they inserted a catheter during the procedure. This was removed a few hours after I came round from the anaesthetic and I was able to go home the next day. I had to take it easy for a week or so after but from then on I had no urinary incontinence! It was like magic!
The surgery changed my life! I was able to do all the things I hadn’t been able to do since I’d had my children. I could join in with their games and run and dance! No woman should have to put up with this problem. No woman should have to feel alone, ashamed, disgusting. There is a solution to the problem. Women just need to pluck up the courage and talk about it. It’s truly worth it!