This Mother’s Day is life changing like no other.

One one hand, I feel very blessed to know I will be able to see my Mum on this special day.

This is not because I live with her.

I’m grateful she is alive.

She spent 8 days in the COVID-19 isolation unit at the local hospital, all while never contracting the dreaded virus.

It was in the early days of the spread, while the world was still operating in a pre-pandemic state. The lock-down hadn’t started and the true complexities of what was coming were not yet realised.

Her care was haphazard at best and we spent time in the isolation room with her covered in personal protective equipment.

The hospital delayed, waiting for nasal swab results confirming she was negative not once, but twice (and losing another of her test specimens) before she could receive the surgical procedure she needed.

A following week was spent in total isolation in the cardiac ward once lock-down commenced. She had a tube inserted into the side of her chest to relieve her lung collapse and ongoing antibiotics for pneumonia affecting the opposite side.

It’s fair to say she needs additional care following her recent health scare.

For my brother and I, this has meant food drop offs, house cleaning, travel to face to face doctors appointments, getting medicine, you get the point.

She easily could have died, from the infection or the lung collapse or the subsequent delay in care while waiting for test results which stopped her from receiving the care she needed.

Life-Changing Gratitude

Thankfully she should make a full recovery and we are very grateful.

These types of scares remind you to recognise what is important and valuable in your life.

It helps you to connect with your purpose and realign with your values.

In addition, it makes you realise what you take for granted, your health, your Mum, your life.

As a health professional, I get to observe this pattern in my patients.

Something dramatic happens to you or a beloved family or friend and people take quick and decisive action.

However, when it comes to chronic health conditions, there is a tendency to take minimal to no action.

There is a lingering sense of, I’ll deal with that later, it’s not that bad, or maybe it will go away (even if I do nothing about it).

This could be with a long term life threatening condition (eg. lifestyle triggered type 2 diabetes) or another issue that can dramatically effect the quality of your life.

A common, but overlooked health issue your Mum (or you) may be experiencing is a pelvic floor problem.

It’s often a silent suffering; incontinence, pelvic pain or prolapses.

Or maybe an occasional uncomfortable joke is made when someone crosses their legs while coughing or laughing.

It’s one of the most common complaints affecting women, while under-recognised and potentially under-reported in men.

Approximately 1 in 3 Australian women who have had a baby have incontinence or long lasting pelvic floor issues.

That rises to up to 70% of women in aged care facilities.

And the figures don’t appear to be getting better.

Impact Of Pelvic Floor Problems

It’s not only the emotional impact of issues such as incontinence. Many women report avoiding activities they enjoy, be it social, exercise or intimacy.

There is also some suggestion it can affect employment opportunities, and self confidence. Pelvic floor problems may be correlated with higher incidence of mental health conditions.

Additionally, there is the financial impact of purchasing incontinence management products, which can be thousands of dollars per year.

Inadequate care in the early phases and symptom progression may be linked to increased urinary tract infections, development of unnecessary painful prolapses or issues such as abscess or fistula.

This increases the risk of surgery and all the potential consequences related to this.

And surgery for some issues, such as prolapse, does not show a particularly favourable long term result.

In simple terms, the problem often returns.

Early Intervention Improves Outcomes

Like most health issues, the earlier Pelvic Floor Problems are addressed, the better potential long term impact.

In fact, correctly performed pelvic floor exercise in conjunction with small lifestyle changes can significantly alter the course of this complaint for many.

How simple is that?

But first of all, we need to get better at having a chat about the pelvic floor, without shame or embarrassment.

This chat may be with a family member or friend.

Or it might be with a trusted health advisor.

Important Considerations For Health Professionals

If you’re the health professional, consider if you need to get better at initiating this conversation, ask open questions and/or taking it seriously when it arises.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of “it’s normal for your age” or “you’ve just had a baby”.

I’m sure I’ve missed subtle cues when people have tried to lead me down this path in the past and if you are reading this, I wish I’d recognised your request for help.

People often work themselves up into a sweat thinking about how to have this conversation with you.

Minimising or dismissing these issues now can mean they are ignored for months or even years.

Be the encouraging and attentive practitioner you were born (or at the very least, trained) to be.

Your patients will thank you for it.

Don’t they say that once a problem is shared, it is halved?

Advice If You’re Experiencing A Problem

There are a number of potential next steps and I encourage you to find the fit for you.

Visit an experienced health professional, such as an Osteopath or Physiotherapist who works within this specific area of practice, or have a chat to your GP.

In some instances, a visit to a specialist, such as a Gynaecologist or Gastroenterologist or Urologist may be recommended.

This may all be a little tricky right now, or maybe you don’t quite feel ready for that.

You can seek support, empowering education and have a little giggle with the online program Laugh No Leaks.

Written and managed by health professionals, we empower people to take their health into their own hands and build confidence and strength in their body.

Age is no barrier and neither is an internal device (such as a pessary or IUD) or requiring pelvic surgery.

May this unique Mother’s Day be an opportunity to re-calibrate, to appreciate the important people in our life and while health is front of mind, ask questions, identify health concerns and take action.

You won’t regret it.

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