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OPINION

'You may never learn about this important part of your body until you encounter a problem'

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An estimated 1 in 4 women will suffer with a bladder problem at some point in their lives.

This cause of this suffering is often related to a weakness of the pelvic floor muscles.

So why is it then, that at present, we do not educate young women about the maintenance of the health of their pelvic floor? We help to inform them about other organs, such as the heart, so why not empower them with knowledge about the pelvic floor?

In fact, the first time most women can expect to receive information regarding their pelvic floor is when they become pregnant. That means that - by default - if you don’t have children, you may never learn about this important part of your body until you encounter a problem.

To address this issue, back in 2009, a small group of healthcare professionals from across the UK came together via the Association for Continence Advice (ACA), to see if they could do something practical about this problem.

They wanted to develop a health promotion leaflet about pelvic floor health that could be delivered to younger women through a variety of media and in a way that met the need of today’s teenagers.

The aim was to promote the role that pelvic floor muscles have in relation to general good health and to inform younger women about the benefits of having good pelvic floor muscle tone.

The group consisted of a nurse, two physiotherapists and a speech and language therapist with experience of running focus groups and publishing.

A link was made with sixth form students at a large comprehensive school and a workshop was held to allow younger people the freedom to fully inform the layout, language, design and content of a pelvic floor leaflet.

Earlier this year an article was published in Nursing Times outlining the development of the leaflet in more detail

The leaflet itself is now available via the ACA website and can either be viewed online or purchased. Plans are afoot to further develop the leaflet into other downloadable formats.

To date, the leaflet has won 3 National Awards in 2011 alone and was well-received when presented to an international audience at the International Continence Society Conference in Glasgow in August. Since then, requests have been coming in for the leaflet to also be made available in different languages for use across Europe.

Liz Howard-Thornton is Continence Team Leader, NHS North Lancashire and Sylvia Craine is a Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist working in Continence Care, NHS Highland.

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