21 years ago, I was induced and I experienced a traumatic birth delivering a large baby resulting in 2nd degree perineal and vaginal tears. I was 22 years old and the extent of the damage caused by this birth did not become apparent immediately. I had no idea about the link between incontinence and childbirth and specifically anal incontinence or OASI.
One-year post birth I suffered urinary stress incontinence and after extensive physiotherapy I had a TVT mesh tape inserted. Whilst this remedied the urinary incontinence, I started to experience anal incontinence which proceeded to get worse. Initially, I was given a combination of drugs, mainly laxatives, Imodium and glycerine suppositories, to try and manage the symptoms of incomplete emptying which was unsuccessful.
Psychologically, one of the biggest obstacles I faced was getting an admission that the birth was the cause of these symptoms. It was implied that I had IBS, or had a virus caused by overseas travel, but these tests returned negative. Eventually, as the symptoms worsened, I asked for a meeting with the consultant at the hospital where my son was born, to ask why I had these problems. I was met with a very unfortunate response and told my problems were psychological, as a result of experiencing a traumatic birth, and that they would go away in time.
However, these problems did not go away and are very much a physical issue. I have undergone years of treatments, physiotherapy and rehabilitation to try to get resolution from debilitating anal incontinence. Along the way I have had multiple surgical procedures to repair the damage caused by the birth. As the years passed and as my situation deteriorated, I have been told multiple times the birth was the cause of my situation and that I should have had a Caesarean section. However, this is not helpful as you cannot change what has happened.
I have tried neurostimulators, a variety of rectal irrigation solutions and as my condition declined, I opted to have a Colostomy in December 2019.
Deciding to have a colostomy was an extremely considered decision as have all the treatments I have had. Any surgery is not a decision to be taken lightly but I felt I had little choice left. My quality of life has significantly improved since having my colostomy and has given me a greater sense of freedom. In my husbands’ words, “I am more like me again.”
Despite these hurdles I have not let my condition define who I am, and I have tried to lead as active a life as possible. As a Personal Trainer I have learnt how to adapt my exercise and fitness regime many times over and I use my personal experience of pelvic floor dysfunction and knowledge gained through living with this condition to help women achieve their goals.
I found MASIC whilst attending the Consent to Birth Meeting in London, in October 2019. I listened to other women bravely telling their stories of what life is like living with anal incontinence and I felt inspired but also frustrated. Despite 21 years passing since my own birth trauma, it became apparent that women are still experiencing difficulties in seeking help. As a result of childbirth injuries relating to anal incontinence and the psychological effect that has, I realised that I could use my own experience to help others through MASIC.
So, this is why I became a MASIC Advocate. I am extremely passionate that women need to be made aware of the risks of OASI, and to try to prevent other women having to live through what I have endured. Having the opportunity to raise awareness and educate about the consequences of living with anal incontinence has given me a hope that, as MASIC Advocates, we can raise the profile of this taboo issue, make a difference and improve the quality of lives and support others in our situation.