Within the five years following an injury to their anus and pelvic floor during childbirth, over one in five women cannot reach a toilet in time, losing control of flatus or faeces. For many anal incontinence (AI) symptoms occur soon after childbirth, but others find it starts or worsens during or after the menopause. The physical, emotional and social impact of AI can be profound and long lasting. Women suffering AI have reported anger, feeling unclean, relationship breakdown, isolation and loss of self-esteem. Women may feel embarrassed by symptoms and unaware that help is available. It takes, on average, seven years before women with AI are seen by a professional with the training and experience to treat their symptoms. Encouraging practitioners to opportunistically enquire about possible symptoms, and empowering women to disclose their concerns, can enable access to timely advice and treatment thus improving women’s physical, emotional and social wellbeing.
An educational grant was received by University of Warwick for the production of the course. The research that informed the materials and the costs of course production were funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit (NIHR202172).The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care. Editorial and content decisions were made solely by the RCGP