Nurture Article | The Portland Hospital Parenting Magazine
Winter Issue 2011 | Sophie Goodchild
Women are often too busy juggling work and home life to seek help for sensitive health problems such as painful periods or bladder weakness. Yet doctors can often remedy them with straightforward treatment. Here are four common issues that women experience, and advice on how to resolve them.
Urinary stress incontinence
Pregnancy and childbirth can put an abnormal strain on pelvic floor muscles, making them weak. The result can be leakage of urine from your bladder just by exercising, coughing or sneezing.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises are the best solution. Simply tighten the muscles as if you’re trying to stop the flow of urine. Slowly count to 10 while you tense the muscle, then count to 10 while you relax again. Repeat this 10 times and do at least 10 times a day. Liz Laverick, women’s health specialist at the Portland, says it’s vital women do the exercises properly. “You need to do them for about four months. They’re easy to do – you can even do them in the Post Office queue.”
The strict definition of heavy or ‘problem’ periods is losing more than 80ml of blood per menstrual cycle. But Mr Gurminder Matharu, consultant gynaecologist at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, says GPs should really be asking women how their quality of life is affected.“If the pain is so severe you must take time off work or you can’t do normal things then it’s time to get help,” he says.
Treatments include non-hormonal drugs which help the blood clot. The Mirena coil is another popular solution to making periods less heavy. It releases the hormone progesterone which prevents the womb lining from thickening every month.
These fluid-filled sacs which develop on or inside the ovary can occur at any time in life. An ultrasound check or blood test is used to detect them and size varies, as do symptoms. “They can measure anything from 1cm to a rugby-ball and some women have pain, others don’t. However, there’s no evidence that cysts affect fertility,” says Mr Matharu.
Cysts can just disappear on their own, but those that persist can be removed using keyhole surgery. The mini-pill is another treatment for women who are not trying for a baby.
This is a common problem for women who’ve had a baby and occurs when the muscles supporting the pelvic tissues become weak and damaged so gravity forces the uterus downwards.
“Some women describe it as a lump or a heavy feeling, like a hernia,” says Mr Matharu.
His advice to new mothers is to wait six months because their muscle strength may improve. With advanced conditions, doctors can fit a ring pessary which doesn’t stop you enjoying sex or getting pregnant. Otherwise, an operation can be carried out to remove excess skin, or for those women who don’t want any more children, mesh is inserted into the vagina.
For more information on pelvic floor exercises, go to www.nhs.uk/livewell/incontinence