The meaning of women's experience of living with long-term urinary incontinence is powerlessness

Doris Hägglund, Gerd Ahlström
Journal of Clinical Nursing 2007, 16 (10): 1946-54

AIM: The aim was to illuminate the meaning of women's experiences of living with urinary incontinence (UI).

BACKGROUND: Living with long-term UI means a variety of consequences for everyday life. Women's narratives about their lived experiences are important in enabling nurses to better understand and to help women achieve symptom control. No previous study could be found that has focused on the meaning of women's experience of living with UI from a symptom management perspective.

METHOD: Fourteen women with UI (range: 34-52 years) who had sought professional help were interviewed. A phenomenological hermeneutic method was used to analyse and interpret the interview texts.

FINDINGS: The women's experiences of living with UI are presented in terms of two interlaced themes of being in a vulnerable situation and striving for adjustment. Being in a vulnerable situation means that the women had no control over UI and experienced powerlessness. The sub-themes in this case were living with an uncontrolled body, living with incontinence as taboo and experiencing a less satisfying encounter. Striving for adjustment means that the women tried to handle their incontinence in different ways to regain power and continue to live as normal. The sub-themes here were living in readiness, making urine leakage comprehensible, accepting living with UI and being familiar with the situation. Conclusion. The meaning of women's experience of living with UI is powerlessness.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Nurses should supervise women in pelvic floor muscle training to achieve control over incontinence, thereby helping them regain power. Additionally, Integrated Approach to Symptom Management can help nurses enhance women's self-care abilities.

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