13 September 2016
When embarrassing bladder troubles stopped rugby-playing mum-of-two Claire Cartwright from taking part in the sport she loved she decided it was time to tackle the problem head on!
Forty-three-year-old Claire had suffered with bladder weakness since being a teenager but the problem worsened with the birth of her two sons and, despite months of pelvic floor exercises, began having more and more impact on her life.
She explained: “It got increasingly worse to the point where I would leak if I coughed, sneezed or made any sudden movement. I would never play with my children outside if it meant running or jumping and would never run for a bus or train.
“I tried several sports including netball, gym and jogging but never stuck at it as I got frustrated with the leakage and the uncomfortable feeling that with every step I was took I could not control my bladder.”
But when Claire, who lives in Solihull with her family, took up rugby with the Silhillians Sirens, she found a hobby she didn’t want to give up and decided that surgery might be the answer to her problem.
She met with Consultant Gynaecologist Mr Gurminder Matharu at Spire Parkway Hospital in Solihull and after assessment, decided that a TVT (Tension-free Vaginal Tape) procedure would be the most suitable treatment.
“The thought of having to suffer any longer wasn't an option for me, I wanted it sorted ASAP and surgery was my best option,” said Claire, a senior analyst at an environmental testing laboratory.
Mr Matharu said: “Claire was suffering from stress incontinence, a condition that affects a lot of woman. Often the treatment, as in this case, is straightforward but the main problem is getting sufferers to overcome their embarrassment and actually talk about it.
“Basically it is the leakage of urine during effort or exertion - such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, sudden movements, lifting and physical exercise. Some women also leak during sex. It is the commonest type of incontinence in women aged over 25 years and can be the result of pregnancy, childbirth, obesity, or weak connective tissue.
“The amount of leakage can vary greatly as the impact on quality of life and degree of bother varies and so treatment needs to be tailored to suit each individual. There are a number of options available, for example losing weight and pelvic floor exercises can also be effective, but there are times when surgery is the only effective solution.”
In Claire’s case they decided that mid-urethral sling (a form of TVT) would offer the best long-term results given her problem and lifestyle. The sling is inserted through a small incision in the vagina and positioned beneath and around the middle of the urethra - the tube through which you pass urine – supporting the urethra during times of effort or exertion.
“Results have been very good and the majority of women are cured and stay dry for many years,” Mr Mathura added.
Now back in training and looking forward to the start of the rugby season Claire said: “For many years I accepted the problem as something that happened to some women after having children. I felt ashamed and felt it was my fault as I probably hadn't done enough pelvic floor exercises when I was pregnant.
“I didn't talk about it with anyone else but now I am sure there are many women out there having exactly the same feelings and I want to tell them there is no need to suffer in silence.
“Yes it is embarrassing but I am sharing my story in the hope that other women will find the courage to talk about it and get help - I only wish I had done it years ago.”
Ten common problems reported by stress incontinence sufferers
- I think I smell
- I can’t walk the dog
- I can’t go to the gym
- I can’t play golf
- I can’t go too dance classes
- I have to carry spare underwear
- I can’t wear skirts
- I have to wear dark trousers
- I avoid having sex
- I leak during sex.
Claire gets support from rugby-playing friends Diane Duddell and Martine Griffiths.
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