Enhancing the identification of anal incontinence in women of reproductive age
evidence and practice    

Enhancing the identification of anal incontinence in women of reproductive age

Julie Tucker Advanced nurse/midwife consultant continence, Lyell McEwin Hospital, Adelaide, Australia
Mary Steen Professor of midwifery, professorial lead for maternal and family health, Clinical and Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Annette Briley Professor of women’s health and midwifery research, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

Why you should read this article:
  • To enhance your knowledge of anal incontinence and its prevalence, symptoms and risk factors

  • To increase your awareness of the need for early routine screening in groups at high risk of anal incontinence

  • To access information about current bowel screening tools and how these could be improved

Anal incontinence is an unpredictable and debilitating condition that can significantly reduce quality of life. Symptoms include the involuntary loss of solid and/or liquid stool, flatus incontinence and rectal urgency. Pregnancy and childbirth are two major factors that increase the risk of anal incontinence in women of reproductive age. Women at high risk of anal incontinence include those with a known history of the condition and those who have experienced severe perineal trauma, particularly after injury to the anal sphincters (third-degree and fourth-degree tears). Routine screening for anal incontinence of women in high-risk groups during pregnancy and after childbirth appears to be limited in clinical practice. This article discusses the potential benefits of screening for anal incontinence, outlines the factors that inhibit and enable screening, describes current bowel screening tools and their limitations, and explores how the identification of anal incontinence in women of reproductive age could be improved.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11735

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

@Annette66849481

Correspondence

julie.tucker@adelaide.edu.au

Conflict of interest

None declared

Tucker J, Steen M, Briley A (2021) Enhancing the identification of anal incontinence in women of reproductive age. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11735

Accepted 24 February 2021

Published online: 19 April 2021

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