Fear of humiliation inhibits women's care-seeking behaviour for long-term urinary incontinence

Scand J Caring Sci. 2007 Sep;21(3):305-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2007.00481.x.


Most women with urinary incontinence (UI) do not seek professional help. Women's experiences of their behaviour when seeking care for incontinence are important to improve understanding by nurses and encourage as well as enable women to seek help. The aim of this study was to illuminate the meaning of women's lived experiences of their behaviour when seeking care for long-term UI. Thirteen women were interviewed (range 37-52 years) who had not sought professional help for incontinence. A phenomenological hermeneutic method was used to analyse and interpret the interview texts. Three themes evolved from data: being in an affected situation, having personal beliefs about seeking care and having desired expectations about care. Being in an affected situation, means that the women were negatively affected by their long-term incontinence. Living with shame, altered sexual relationships and a need for distancing have negatively influenced their care-seeking behaviour (CSB). Having personal beliefs about seeking care means that the women had their own beliefs regarding morally acceptable behaviour for seeking care because of incontinence. This led to a toning down of their problem and a minimization of the problem associated with incontinence as it was considered to be a normal consequence of pregnancy and childbirth. Having desired expectations about care means that the women had opinions relevant to the care and felt being asked about incontinence and an understanding atmosphere should be included. The conclusion is that fear of humiliation inhibited women from seeking care for long-term UI. The findings suggest that nurses should be precise when asking about women's experiences of UI because otherwise they do not bring it up. Additionally, CSB can help nurses to explain the experience and enable women to seek help for this manageable condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Shame*
  • Sweden
  • Urinary Incontinence / nursing
  • Urinary Incontinence / psychology*