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Sunday, 16 September, 2001, 00:26 GMT 01:26 UK
'I feel so alone'
Childbirth can lead to women suffering urinary incontinence
Childbirth can lead to women suffering urinary incontinence
Incontinence is a problem that affects one in 10 people. Niamh Fogarty, a 23-year-old housewife from Belfast, tells BBC News Online how she developed the condition after giving birth to her second baby in January.

Niamh Fogarty was looking forward to showing off her new baby.

She already had a two-year-old daughter.

But she did not take her young family to the park or to see friends - because she was embarrassed to be suffering from stress incontinence.

It was three months before she went out socially, and she only did so then because it was her birthday.

This condition has really knocked my confidence as I'm afraid of even sneezing in public

Niamh Fogarty
Niamh says she was very embarrassed by her condition, which can affect her at any time and anywhere.

But she decided to speak out in an attempt to help others.

"If my story touches someone else out there who is also having problems then I'm pleased.

"This condition can make you feel very alone."

She added: "It has really knocked my confidence as I'm afraid of even sneezing in public.

"Although I've had a lot of support from my husband and family it's been an uphill struggle and it's changed my life."

She said that suffering from incontinence made her feel so uncomfortable, she only felt happy visiting her family's homes.

First symptoms

Niamh first noticed the condition just after giving birth.

"It hit me straight away. The symptoms began a few hours after the baby was born when I left my bed for the first time to pop to the toilet, and there was a gush of water," she said.

She was told to try pelvic floor exercises, but said the problem became "10 times worse" after she went home with her baby.

"I didn't think anything of it at the time, but then it happened quite frequently and it didn't matter if I was standing or sitting. It was terribly embarrassing."

She asked her midwife for help, and when the problem continued, she was referred on for physiotherapy which is beginning to help.

But the condition has dramatically affected her life.

Niamh used to be a keen sportswoman, but now she finds it difficult to walk quickly.

She says she even finds it difficult sometimes playing with her daughter in the park.

And it has made her rethink plans to have more children.

"I never thought this could happen to someone as young as myself and it has certainly made me think twice about having another baby, which is hard because I wanted a large family."

She added it was important to change the commonly held belief that incontinence only affected older people.

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