The lived experience of women with faecal incontinence after childbirth: a thematic synthesis
Evidence & Practice    

The lived experience of women with faecal incontinence after childbirth: a thematic synthesis

Jennifer MacLellan Senior research nurse, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, England
Simona Fourie Research nurse manager, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, England

The prevalence of faecal incontinence in the general population is estimated to be between 11% and 15%, with a subgroup of younger women experiencing a higher prevalence linked to childbirth injury. Such injury is estimated to occur in up to 16% of vaginal births, equating to potentially 80,000 women a year who experience a variety of symptoms from perineal pain, urgency, incontinence and psychological issues. The perspectives of women living with faecal incontinence as a result of childbirth injury are largely missing from the data. This project aimed to address this by bringing together women’s perspectives using a thematic synthesis.

A database search of CINAHL, PubMed and the British Nursing Index retrieved 434 records. After review, four records were included in the synthesis. Three categories were synthesised: experiencing a compromised identity; living with secrets; and feeling isolated. These categories were contained in an overarching theme of invisibility as a woman in the mother/child dyad.

Postnatal faecal incontinence is debilitating and often hidden due to shame, lack of information and support. This synthesis suggests women with postnatal faecal incontinence have similar lived experiences to those who have faecal incontinence with a different aetiology. The unique difference is the sense of invisibility expressed by the participants regarding their identity as a woman due to an enduring focus by others on their function as a mother and the health of their child.

Primary Health Care. 29, 4, 35-39. doi: 10.7748/phc.2019.e1541

Correspondence

jennifer.maclellan@ndm.ox.ac.uk

Peer review

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

Conflict of interest

None declared

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