NHS England is rolling out a network of pelvic health clinics to help pregnant women and new mothers receive support to prevent and treat incontinence and other pelvic floor issues.
The clinics will be initially rolled out in 14 areas of the country, with up to 175,000 women set to benefit from the additional support every year, NHS England has said.
The intention is the clinics will bring together midwives, specialist doctors and specialist physiotherapists under one roof. Women receiving maternity care in the pilot sites will be able to access the clinics throughout their pregnancy, which will include providing exercises to help prevent problems from developing in the first place.
Physiotherapists will teach how to exercise pelvic floor muscles correctly, give advice on diet and fluid intake as well as helping women to monitor their progress.
Women will be able to referred to the clinics by their GP but there will also be the option to self-refer for those who, for example, feel embarrassed about seeking help.
NHS England said research showed that one in three women experiences urinary incontinence in the first year after having a baby and up to three-quarters will continue to experience this in the following 12 years after giving birth.
A further one in 10 women experience faecal incontinence and another one in 12 will have a pelvic organ prolapse, all of which can either disrupt someone’s ability to keep working or mean having to take time off work.
The intention is to expand services following the initial trials and to make them available to women in every part of the country by March 2024, NHS England added.
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.”
The pilot services are being located 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