Alex has multiple sclerosis (MS), which has caused urinary incontinence. She has a suprapubic catheter, which she says is liberating and has improved her life. She prevents infections by drinking a great deal of water and having a daily low dose of antibiotics.
In 1986 (when aged 25), Alex was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). At first she had minor symptoms, but after about 10 years she experienced urinary incontinence. She managed this by wearing pads, but found that she was limiting the fluids that she drank and that she worried about going out. She also found that it was tiring and difficult changing her pads. Her continence nurse and her urologist suggested that she should consider having a suprapubic catheter. At first Alex was not keen on the idea because she feared that a catheter would have a negative effect on her body image, and that with a catheter her husband might not find her sexually attractive.
Alex tried self catheterisation, but found this too difficult because of the spasticity in her legs. Eventually she decided she would have a suprapubic catheter. No one discussed where the catheter was going to be placed so Alex assumed that there was only one suitable place for it. She had the operation under sedation and was only in hospital as a day patient. When she woke up she found that the catheter had been inserted very low down, near to the pubic bone, and she was worried that the position of the catheter might make sex difficult. However, when Alex and her husband had sex again she found that all was well and that they could both still enjoy the experience. Alex discovered that her consultant urologist had assumed that she would want the catheter placed as low as possible so that she could still wear a bikini. The consultant offered to do the operation again and move the position of the catheter. Five years after her initial operation Alex decided to have her catheter re-positioned. This time she spent one night in hospital. The catheter now lies a bit higher up and to one side of her abdomen. Alex believes that before a woman has a suprapubic catheter, the urologist should discuss the siting of the catheter and place it where it best suits that particular woman and her life-style.
Alex was concerned because after sex she saw a little blood in her urine. Doctors could not explain this, but after six years one urologist suggested that she should shut her catheter valve about 15 minutes before sex, so that there was still some urine in her bladder during sex. The urologist thought that if the bladder was completely empty during sex the end of the catheter might rub on the wall of the bladder and irritate it, thus causing the bleeding. Alex did as the urologist suggested and the bleeding was reduced.
At first Alex had quite a few urine infections. Her urology Professor suggested she take a daily low dose of antibiotics to prevent urine infections which she has now been taking for 8 years and works very well. She also drinks copious quantities of water. Her continence nurse suggested that she change from a latex catheter to a silicone catheter, which also suited Alex because the latex catheter was giving her blisters on her leg. Alex has her catheter changed every five weeks. If she leaves it longer it tends to block.
Alex is very glad that she has a suprapubic catheter. She says that it is liberating and has changed her life for the better.