Many years ago the subject of breast cancer was embarrassing to most people. Few people remember now how mortified women were at the thought of discussing cancer of the (gulp!) BREAST! It took the bravery of Betty Ford, the First Lady of the United States, to stand up and say: “I had breast cancer” before things could begin to change and the shame and embarrassment associated with breast cancer could become a thing of the past. Today, we face a similar problem with pelvic floor disorders such as incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Losing control of one’s bladder or bowel is certainly disturbing, and often mortifying to someone previously accustomed to having control of bowels and bladder. When we are toilet trained we are often shamed into not soiling our underwear or clothing, and that shame persists into adulthood. Often, urinary or bowel leakage will result in a withdrawal from the social or physical activities that may lead to a possible leakage occurring.
Sadly, too many women are so embarrassed by their accidents that they fail to seek help from a qualified professional. Sometimes, the fear of surgery may prevent them from discussing the problem, as many women erroneously believe that their only treatment options are surgical. We are living in the Information Age. Social media has opened up avenues of communication our ancestors never dreamed of. As a society, people tend to share more private information now than before. Still, the stigma of incontinence remains largely unaddressed. It is time to open up and seek qualified, educated assistance for these problems. The demand for accurate information and effective treatments is growing. I encourage everyone to speak up and let others who are suffering know: You are not alone!
Linda Kiley, MD
Dr. Kiley is a Board Certified subspecialist in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, and is also Board Certified in general Obstetrics and Gynecology.