Incontinence and sexuality: findings from a qualitative perspective
Incontinence remains a taboo where myths and misconceptions abound. The objectives of this study were to explore the impact of incontinence on an individual’s sexuality and to identify the impact of health interventions for the management of incontinence on sexuality. A quota sample of subjects whose incontinence was regarded as being either successfully managed (n=14) or unsuccessfully managed (n=12) by continence advisers, community nurses and health visitors from two National Health Service Trusts were interviewed. A further subject whose incontinence was not classified was also interviewed, bringing the total number of interviews to 27. One Trust had an established continence advisory service of some 19 years, while the other Trust did not have a specific continence advisory service and relied upon members of the primary health care team to meet the needs of individuals suffering from incontinence. The qualitative data from this study were analysed using the constant comparative technique and were grouped into themes relating to clothing and appearance, intimacy and caring, management techniques and relationships and life trajectory. This is the first study to have examined management techniques for incontinence and their relationship to an individual’s sexuality and therefore has important implications for clinical practice. It has also set the findings of incontinence and sexuality in the context of chronic conditions and their related patient careers and life trajectory.