According to a piece published in the journal Nursing Standard from Mary Steen at the University of Chester, nurses play several crucial parts in patient care after childbirth, including bowel and bladder care. Childbirth can have immediate side effects on bowel and bladder function and incontinence issues, but not all women feel comfortable seeking help from a nurse or healthcare professional due to embarrassment. Steen claims nurses need to support patients emotionally and physically, but they also need to learn about the anatomy and physiology underlying continence issues that may be affected during childbirth. 

Are Continence Issues a Big Problem in Women After Childbirth?

Issues with incontinence start for many women during pregnancy. The weight of the growing fetus on the bladder is enough to cause occasional accidents, but the issues may not stop after childbirth. For some women, incontinence continues during childbirth and after delivery, but typically resolve through some long-term continence issues may persist if pelvic floor muscles are weakened. Women who have C-sections may also face issues with incontinence for many years after giving birth. I personally still have the occasional sneezing or coughing accident and my youngest is nearly 10 years old. 

Where Do Nurses Come into Play?

Nurses are the one group of people who are always around in a hospital setting. Doctors come in and check on patients after childbirth, in many cases, but nurses are there to give primary care. Establishing trust with a patient is crucial from the start as incontinence is an intimate, sometimes embarrassing issue that many women choose not to talk about no matter how common it is. Something as simple as mentioning how common incontinence is before asking if there are any issues after childbirth could be enough to spark some women to open up. 

Source: Mary Steen. Promoting continence in women following childbirth. Nursing Standard. 28, 1, 49-57.

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