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Reasons why women with long-term urinary incontinence do not seek professional help: a cross-sectional population-based cohort study


The aims of this study were to investigate the reasons why some women with long-term urinary incontinence (UI) seek professional help whereas others do not, their experiences and satisfactions with the healthcare services, and how women deal with their incontinence. In total, 95 women aged 23–51 years with persistent UI (median 10 years, range 6–20 years) were included in this telephone interview survey. Seventy-four percent of the women with long-term UI had not sought help. The most common reason given was that the disorder was considered a minor problem, which they felt they could cope with on their own. When women did consult professional help they did so because they were afraid of the odor of urine and that they perceived the leakage as shameful and embarrassing. These women felt that the healthcare service offered appropriate care for their condition. Pelvic floor exercises were the most commonly used management methods for all participants.

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UI Urinary incontinence


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The study was supported by a grant from the Västmanland County Research Foundation.

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Correspondence to Doris Hägglund.

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Editorial Comment: In this survey of 78 women aged 23–51 with reported urinary incontinence, only 20 (26%) sought professional help for this problem. Although the majority of women in this younger sample deemed their problem to be minor, increasing urinary leakage, embarrassment and fear of odor were the most frequent reasons given for seeking help. This study highlights the taboo regarding urinary incontinence.



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Hägglund, D., Walker-Engström, ML., Larsson, G. et al. Reasons why women with long-term urinary incontinence do not seek professional help: a cross-sectional population-based cohort study. Int Urogynecol J 14, 296–304 (2003).

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  • Seeking help
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Women