Faecal Incontinence
After Childbirth:
It’s More Common Than You Think!

Postpartum faecal incontinence is very common in mothers who have a vaginal delivery. Read on for why it happens and what you can do to manage.

Faecal Incontinence
After Childbirth:
It’s More Common Than You Think!

Postpartum faecal incontinence is very common in mothers who have a vaginal delivery. Read on for why it happens and what you can do to manage.

Experiencing postpartum faecal incontinence, also known as anal or bowel incontinence, is a much more common occurrence than you may think, with an estimate of 5% of women in the UK experiencing the condition after giving birth [1].

Women who have given birth and are experiencing from postpartum faecal incontinence might experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • The inability to hold in a bowel movement
  • Urgently needing to 'go'
  • Noticing faecal smearing or faecal matter in underwear
  • Involuntarily passing gas

The symptoms of postpartum incontinence usually resolve after the first few months following delivery, but in some cases it can continue longer. However, there are ways to manage and treat the condition.

Read on to find out more!

How does childbirth cause faecal incontinence?

To understand how childbirth can cause faecal incontinence, we first need to discuss the pelvic floor.

The pelvic floor is a combination of muscles, nerves, ligaments and your pelvic organs - including the uterus, birth canal, bladder, rectum and anal sphincter. Since this group of muscles are vital in controlling your bowels, damage to them can impact the ability to control and hold on to your movements.

 During vaginal childbirth, immense pressure is put on your pelvic floor - from pushing for a long duration of time, to having the baby travel through the birth canal - which can result in a weakening of the pelvic floor or a tear in the anal sphincter or perineum.

A 2002 U.S study found that tears to the anal sphincter during delivery is strongly linked to developing feacal incontinence following birth, as well as showing that forceps assisted delivery comes with the highest risk of tear and subsequent faecal incontinence [2].

There is also evidence to support that vaginal delivery comes with a higher risk of postpartum faecal incontinence [3], but that isn’t to say you won’t develop it if you opt to have a caesarian section (C-section). A 2003 comparative study found that 5% of mothers who had a c-section developed the condition following birth [4].

What is the treatment for postpartum incontinence?

Many women endure the physical and mental health impacts of postpartum faecal incontinence in silence. But it’s important to remember that changes in bowel function are very common in the first few months after giving birth.

Thankfully, there are a range of treatment options available if you notice you’re experiencing bowel issues following delivery.

The first step is to let your GP know about your symptoms, so they can assess the severity in conjunction with your medical history to be able to provide you with a personalised treatment plan best suited to your needs and situation.

Depending on your situation, the treatments recommended could include:

  • Medication
  • Pelvic physiotherapy
  • Surgery (in acute cases)

What can I do at home to manage faecal incontinence after childbirth?

In addition to speaking with your doctor and following their recommendations, there are some things you can do to help manage the symptoms to continue to live your day-to-day life confidently and comfortably. These can include:

  • Making changes to your diet
    There are some types of food and drinks that can worsen the symptoms of faecal incontinence, such as caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods. Try keeping a food diary to help figure out if there are any specific foods or drinks that worsen your symptoms to limit or avoid any you identify.

  • Pelvic floor exercises
    Since damage to the pelvic floor can be a contributing factor and cause to the condition, engaging in pelvic floor exercises, such as kegels, regularly can help build strength in the area to give better support to your pelvic organs.

  • Using quality incontinence aids
    You can continue to live your life with confidence following childbirth by investing in quality incontinence aids, such as ConfidenceClub’s highly absorbent range of pull-up pants.

    With a slim-line design, these pull-up pants are invisible under clothing, fitting just like regular underwear, and feature active odour locking technology to neutralise any odours and keep you feeling fresh for up to 12 hours.

    If you’re not sure which products would work best for you, our Help Me Choose online quiz takes just a couple of minutes to complete and will give a range of options suited for you based on your responses. Alternatively, you can get in touch with our product specialists via email, phone or web chat for help with any queries.

Faecal incontinence following childbirth can be hard to experience, but take comfort in knowing you aren’t going through it alone and there are a range of treatment options available to help manage the symptoms.

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