The NHS will launch clinics in 14 areas across the country, aiming to support tens of thousands of pregnant women and new mums. The initiative hopes to help prevent and treat incontinence, and other pelvic floor issues.
As many as 175,000 women are expected to benefit from the added support every year. The service will ensure that women with symptoms are cared for, including those receiving maternity care in the pilot sites, who will have access to the service during pregnancy.
This will also include providing targeted exercises, which has the ability to prevent any issues initially developing. Physiotherapists will teach women pelvic floor muscle exercises, provide nutritional advice and advice on fluid intake, as well as helping women monitor their progress. Midwives, specialist doctors, and specialist physiotherapists will all assist in each clinic.
Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, NHS England’s Chief Midwifery Officer, said: “We know many women don’t report issues with incontinence because they are embarrassed about seeking help. Bringing together experts in pelvic health in one place will offer women a way of seeking help quickly and easily, as well as sending the message that postnatal incontinence is nothing to be ashamed of and can be treated.
“We all have a duty to share evidence-based messages – including that incontinence products are, primarily, a temporary support, and women with incontinence should seek medical support. We must make sure that these messages are reinforced wherever possible, and not contradicted.”
“Our message to women is that issues like incontinence are preventable and treatable and that the NHS is there for them if they need support, including at these 14 new sites.”
Women will be given the choice to refer themselves, to avoid any embarrassment when seeking help. GPs will also be able to refer patients for help. Local clinicians, GPs, and midwives working with women, will also benefit from training and support from the new clinics.
This forms part of the aims to improve the prevention, identification, and treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction, set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. This is to reduce the number of women experiencing ongoing issues after labour, and later in life.
The services are expected to expand following the start of trails, and will become available to women in every part of the country by March 2024.
The pilot services are in:
- Birmingham and Solihull
- Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire
- Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
- Herefordshire and Worcestershire
- Hertfordshire and West Essex
- Lancashire and South Cumbria
- Norfolk and Waveney
- North West London
- Shrewsbury, Telford and Wrekin
- South East London
- Suffolk and North East Essex