Written by Daksha Mistry, Managing Director of incontinence swimwear
When I started my research into bowel incontinence swimwear, I thought bowel incontinence was just related to disabled children and adults, therefore, I concentrated on researching the needs of special needs children first.
As a qualified tailor and designer, I set out to research fabric and accessories suitable to create the right style of swimwear, attending continence conferences and bladder and bowel training days, speaking to incontinence advisors and paediatric nurses to find out the needs and challenges of children who have very little control or sensation of their bowel movement.
Baby swimwear can be very cute and attractive and available in many colours and styles, and this is what we needed for the older children. However only clinical looking and very bulky options were available. Most of them did not contain stool and urine and showed their bulkiness through the swimsuit or swim short when worn.
Then I found that schools were using plastic pants worn over disposable nappies. This created big problems, as well as causing embarrassment for wearers when they had an accident in the pool. The plastic pants would leak and the nappy, in some cases, exploded in the pool once it became waterlogged, and fibres from the nappies dispersing into the water would block the swimming pool filters. Very often the pools need to be closed all day for cleaning and replacement of filters. As well as the inconvenience, this was working out very expensive for the schools, leading to cancellation of all-important aqua therapy or swimming sessions.
I also found that the existing incontinence swimwear was leaking because it was made using standard mainstream sizing measurement. Making bespoke swimwear was a costly option and this would mean not everyone would be able to afford it. Bespoke swimwear would not be suitable for anyone else once the child grows out of it.
Taking all my research on board, I set out to design swimwear that ticked most of these boxes. The swimwear needed to be functional first to contain faecal accident; then it needed to be attractive and lastly it had to fit well. I say ‘faecal’ because urine is not easy to contain with the movement of the body and pressure of the water – there will be some exchange of water as watertight swimwear is difficult to create.
According to Dr Eve Fleming of the charity ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence), there are around 900,000 children and young people suffering from bladder and bowel dysfunction*.
Bowel and bladder problems have more impact than almost any other medical condition on children’s self-esteem, education and social relationships, and effective treatment can change children’s lives. ERIC, Bladder and Bowel UK and other charity organisations provide help and training for healthcare professional and advice for general public.
It is important to make sure all findings were addressed when creating the swimwear. The swimwear needed to be durable as many children have water therapy once or twice a week, so using chlorine-resistant fabrics and accessories were key factors in creating this type of swimwear. Keeping the cost down so that the fashionable swimwear is affordable and accessible for everyone is very important too. My production started in the UK but with each production the cost increased, and the output became slow, hence I found myself looking for factories overseas.
All incontinence swimwear plays an invaluable part in rehabilitation and improvement in children’s lives whether they are disabled or abled bodied. It’s a form of exercise and fun for them. On many of my visits to special needs school, where my swimwear is trialled, I see their faces light up with excitement as they enter water. The physios work with the children to make each session exciting and fun but with attention to the exercises they need to do. I notice the children are very responsive until it’s time to come out. This could take between 5 to 15 minutes to take each child out as some don’t want the fun to end.
The swimwear prevents pool filters becoming blocked and stops pools being closed for a whole day in some case for cleaning, preventing expensive filter replacements and disruption of swimming lessons.
Some special needs schools use local swimming pools; therefore, it is equally important the swimwear performs well in containing any faecal accidents. It is also useful for children who are late in potty training – parents can still take them swimming whether locally or while away on holiday.
Some pools are banning disposable swim nappies being worn since the fibres released are blocking the filters, and some request that a protecting cover be worn over the disposable swim nappies to prevent this. Disposable nappies are harmful to the environment, not just because they have single use but as I have seen when on holiday, used nappies are left on the beach, near waterfalls, lakes, natural springs and spas.
I have incorporated these features in the designs of my Kes-Vir Swimwear – I feel we should all be doing a little extra for the environment and I am always looking at fabric, fabric prints, and packaging to make sure my swimwear takes a better route. Using recyclable bags made from plants, using recycled fabric, and recyclable accessories are all being added with every new production manufactured.
*National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2010) Bedwetting in under 19s. (CG 111) https;//www.nie.org.uk/guidance/cg111
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2014) Bedwetting in children and young people. (QS70) https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs70
Incy Wincy Ltd – Kes-Vir Swimwear
Tel: 0118 9560295