Taboo busting - let’s talk about incontinence and menopause says the Government’s first female chief medical officer

Incontinence is one of the women's health issues that Dame Sally Davies wants women to discuss more

Incontinence is one of the women's health issues that Dame Sally Davies wants women to discuss more openly - Credit: Archant

Women are being urged to stop suffering in silence when it comes to embarrassing health issues like incontinence and menopause.

Dame Sally Davies, the Government's first female Chief Medical Officer

Dame Sally Davies, the Government's first female Chief Medical Officer - Credit: Archant

The Government’s first female chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies today (Friday) publishes her annual report encouraging women to seek help for taboo issues as well as calling for a national audit on ovarian cancer.

It also talks about how obesity is now a public health threat for women in the UK.

The report has been welcomed by journalist and campaigner Kath Sansom, who set up awareness campaign, Sling The Mesh, to make women aware of the risks of a mesh sling operation given to women to fix incontinence, often suffered after childbirth.

Dame Sally says: “We need to challenge taboos around the menopause and incontinence to make sure embarrassment is never a barrier to better health.

Kath Sansom has launched a campaign raising awareness about a gynaecology operation in which a TVT s

Kath Sansom has launched a campaign raising awareness about a gynaecology operation in which a TVT sling is used. Picture: HELEN DRAKE - Credit: Archant


You may also want to watch:


“Problems ‘below the waist’ are not generally seen as attractive topics for public discussion, and women are often reluctant to seek help for common disabling conditions.

“This needs to end – women should never suffer in silence. Breaking the taboo around these subjects will help more women come forward and get the care they need.”

Most Read

Dame Sally said that incontinence affects more than five million women in the UK and along with prolapse, costs the NHS more than £200 million a year in treatment and support.

Women should not be afraid to discuss incontinence with their doctor, and the earlier they do, the better, she said.

A variety of treatments can help, she said, including weight loss, physiotherapy and medication.

Kath said: “For some mums the pelvic floor remains strong but for others, around 40 per cent, they never get back to what they were.

“If you had a big baby, suffered from spd or had a long labour you are more likely to fall prey.

“Even actress Kate Winslet has joked how she suffers this after childbirth. I would urge women to seek help, but if offered a mesh operation to fix it, then do some serious research and be aware of the risks, also know repairs can be made using the body’s natural tissue.”

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage is one of a team of MPs meeting in Parliament with North East Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay and Kath next month to discuss the complications of mesh operations.

She said: “The impact of mesh surgery to treat stress urinary incontinence has caused serious unintended medical problems for many women throughout the UK.

“That is why I am working alongside other MPs to see how we can tackle this complex issue and ensure that women who have suffered from complications associated with mesh surgery are listened to and supported.”

Menopause also goes under the spotlight in the Dame Sally’s report and she wants bosses to make it easier for women to discuss the menopause in the workplace, without embarrassment.

She also examines women’s cancers, particularly ovarian cancer, and calls for a national audit in the light of news that 6,483 women in England were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 and there were 3,988 deaths in 2013. Survival rate is just 36 per cent.

Her report also calls for cognitive behaviour therapy for women with eating disorders, work to be done to help those who suffer domestic and sexual violence and better mental health care support.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter