Ten of thousands of pregnant women and new mums will receive support to prevent and treat incontinence and other pelvic floor issues, thanks to new clinics set up by the NHS.
Lancashire and South Cumbria will be one of 14 areas in the country where this will be initially piloted with up to 17,000 women set to benefit from the additional support every year.
Clinics will offer a one stop shop for women with symptoms, bringing together specialist physiotherapists, midwives and doctors under one roof.
Every woman receiving maternity care in the pilot sites will be able to access the service throughout their pregnancy, which includes providing exercises that can help to prevent problems from developing in the first place.
Physiotherapists can teach women how to exercise pelvic floor muscles correctly, give advice on diet and fluid intake as well as helping women to monitor their progress.
There will be an option to self-refer so that women don’t feel embarrassed seeking help in addition to GPs being able to refer patients for help.
Specialist Physiotherapists will also provide training and support for local clinicians who are working with women, including GPs and midwives.
Research shows that one in three women experience urinary incontinence in the first year after having a baby and up to three quarters of these women continue to experience this in the following 12 years after giving birth.
A further one in 10 women experience faecal incontinence and another one in 12 will have a pelvic organ prolapse.
The support is part of the NHS Long Term Plan’s commitment to improve the prevention, identification and treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction, so that fewer women experience ongoing issues after giving birth and later in life.
Services will be expanded following the initial trials and will be available to women in every part of the country by March 2024.
Jennifer Huxall, 32 from East Lancashire experienced Pelvic Girdle Pain during pregnancy and life-changing pelvic health difficulties after giving birth to both her children and said: “Nobody tells you about the after effects there can be from having a baby, you just expect to get back to normal and when you don’t it’s a big shock but it can happen to anyone. I really struggled after my first baby and didn’t know where to go to get help.
“It affected my career and ability to go back to work and do my job properly and I suffered with depression. My partner had to take time off work to help me and if it wasn’t for finally getting help from Sally the Specialist Physiotherapist I don’t know what I’d have done.
“I think too many women suffer in silence and it’s great that these services are being expanded so that more women can get the help they need. I hope that by sharing my experience it might help other women realise that this is not a normal part of having kids and that physiotherapy really makes a difference.
“Being able to get directly in touch with a physiotherapist without having to go through your GP is great and these new clinics for more women to get the support I got will make a difference to so many people like me.”