New service to tackle pregnancy-related pelvic health issues

Thousands more pregnant women and those who have given birth in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes will soon be able to receive support to prevent and treat pregnancy-related incontinence and other pelvic floor issues, thanks to the imminent rollout of an NHS service to additional locations across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes.

The clinics will offer a service to women, offering access to specialist physiotherapists as part of the maternity care team.  Every woman receiving maternity care will be able to access the service throughout their pregnancy and for up to a year following the birth.

Physiotherapists will work with women who access the service to teach specialist exercises for pelvic floor muscles, both to relieve symptoms and to help prevent problems from developing in the first place.  They will also offer advice on diet and fluid intake, as well as helping women to monitor their own progress.

Chrissie Edley, perinatal pelvic health service clinical lead for Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes, said:

Research shows that one woman in every three experiences urinary incontinence in the first year after having a baby and, without advice and/or treatment, many of these women would continue to experience this for years after giving birth.  Around one woman in seven experiences bowel incontinence, and one in 12 has symptoms of prolapse.

“We know there is a demand for a specialist service, so I’m delighted that patients in Milton Keynes can now get the help they need.  This is a service which was promised as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, so women across England will soon be able to benefit from high-quality advice from a range of professionals.

“Patients in Luton and Bedfordshire will be able to take advantage of the new service later in 2024.

“Crucially, if you have pelvic girdle pain, lower back pain, urinary incontinence, bowel incontinence and prolapse which are new in your pregnancy or in the first 12 months after your baby’s birth, you can self-refer to the service, so you don’t need to feel embarrassed at seeking help.  We will also be able to offer more accessible care for those with these and other pelvic floor problems, who can be referred by a GP or other health professional. Paula* (not her real name), who used the service earlier this year, said:

“I wish this service had been available following the birth of my first baby – a normal vaginal delivery with an episiotomy – which resulted in the wound getting infected and weeks of hospital visits.  After this, I struggled to return to sex without pain, which has affected my relationship significantly.

“I have also struggled for years with controlling my wee: I thought it was normal but, if I’d been told earlier after the birth or even during my pregnancy that simple exercises could have stopped the problem, it’s likely I wouldn’t be thinking about surgery now in my mid-40s.”


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