Seeking Care: Women's Narratives Concerning Long-Term Urinary Incontinence

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Urinary incontinence (UI) is highly prevalent in the United States and world-wide, increases with age, and is more common in women than men. Despite the availability of numerous effective treatments, many women living with UI do not seek professional care and rarely discuss sexual function with health care providers. In a secondary analysis of women's narratives concerning long-term UI, care-seeking behaviors were examined, along with examples of possible relationships between UI and sexuality and intimacy.IntroductionAs part of a recent study (parent study), women's narratives of long-term urinary incontinence (UI) were compiled and analyzed. In this article, findings are presented from a secondary analysis of parent study data.PurposePrimary aims of this study were to 1) examine care-seeking behaviors for women experiencing UI, and 2) describe individual experiences with UI affecting sexuality and intimacy.MethodsSeventeen community-dwelling women (mean age, 65; 35% African American) participated in semi-structured interviews. Thirteen (76%) had sought treatment from either their primary care provider or a continence specialist. Demographic, general health, continence, and interview data were analyzed using QSR NUD*ist (Non-numerical Unstructured Data by Indexing, Searching, and Theorizing) 6.0 software and by hand, using line-by-line coding.ResultsFindings suggest that women who seek care for UI are more likely than those who do not seek care to 1) tell a story, 2) describe UI as having a negative impact on sense of self, and 3) be older, Caucasian, in “good” or “excellent” general health, and suffer from UI for a longer period of time than those who choose not to seek care. An additional finding is that some women relate UI to sexuality, intercourse, and intimacy.ConclusionsThis study expands current knowledge of the characteristics of women with UI and possible relationships between UI and sexuality. Further research is needed to examine how or if these factors relate to whether or not women choose to seek professional care for UI.Level of Evidence - VI

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