GP and new Mum, Eloise Elphinstone, shares with us her advice on speaking to your GP if you have sustained on OASI injury. Eloise can be found on Instagram @the_postnatal_gp
About 6/100 first-time mothers will have a deep tear involving the anal sphincter muscle, also known as a 3rd or 4th degree tear. Recovery varies from these types of tears, and although a lot of women heal with no problems, some women can experience long term issues. A study done by the NCT showed that 1/3 of women suffer incontinence after childbirth, however 38% of these women are too embarrassed to talk about it.
It’s not surprising that women find it difficult to talk about as there is a social stigma attached to these issues. In addition, not all GP’s ask the right questions to prompt women to talk about it and it can be a really difficult subject to bring up with the GP. However, I want to reassure women that GP’s want to know and want to be able to help. There is a lot of help out there, it is just knowing how and where to get it.
As a GP I want to share some tips to make it easier for you to talk to a GP:
- Remember, as doctors we see all sorts of things, so nothing tends to phase us and so we don’t get embarrassed.
- Everything that is told to us is strictly confidential, nothing leaves the consultation room, other than if we need to do a referral and we will ask your permission.
- A lot of women are in exactly the same position as you, you are not alone. Therefore, as GP’s, we have talked to a lot of women about similar issues.
- Try to see a doctor who you know, and you feel comfortable with.
- Book a double appointment if possible so we have time to talk.
- Try not to wait until you see your GP for something else, or wait until your 6 week check. You need allocated time to focus on this one problem.
- If you are nervous, tell your doctor, hopefully they can put you at ease.
- If you don’t feel comfortable talking about it, some GP practices now have the ability to send an online query.
- Try to be as direct as possible – tell the doctor exactly what is worrying you.
- Don’t worry if you don’t know the right term, just explain it as best as you can.
- If possible, try to go to your appointment on your own, without any children or interruptions. It makes it easier for you to concentrate and your GP focus on you.
- Take a list of questions with you. It means you won’t forget to ask anything and also can help asking embarrassing questions, as you are reading off your paper.
- It can be helpful to keep a diary of your symptoms/ feelings to show your GP.
- Ultimately as GPs we are here to help, and we really want to help. If you don’t think we have understood, then please tell us.
A couple of tips if you have had a 3rd or 4th degree tear:
- If you have had a 3rd or 4th degree tear you should have been referred to a perineal clinic (a clinic in the hospital which specialises in tears) or a physiotherapy clinic. If you have not, ask your GP.
- Women’s health physiotherapists can be invaluable. Ask your GP to refer you to one if you are struggling with bowel and bladder issues.
- If things are not improving, then go back to your GP and ask for more help.
- Urinary and bowel incontinence can often have an impact on your mood. If you are struggling, please let your GP know.
Please do talk to your GP about any issue that is bothering you. Even though the appointments are short and we often seem in a rush, we want to help.