Trying Transanal Irrigation for the first time

May 30 2020

Having shared with you my first experience of catheterization, I want to tell you what it was like when I performed Transanal Irrigation myself for the first time.

1245964-Regina Fernandez portrait with flowers World MS Day-HC

A neurogenic condition like MS can impact both the bladder and bowel. Transanal Irrigation is a drug free therapy for emptying the bowel when it’s function is impaired. By irrigating the bowel, the stool is flushed out.

I had been given a TAI electronic unit to use. My health care professional had demonstrated the therapy, and the operating instructions were within reach, but I was on my own. I did everything the nurse had shown me. Then a challenge occurred: mixing the water. I didn't want to leave it to chance to hit the right temperature. So I decided to measure the temperature with the clinical thermometer.
It was kind of back and forth with the temperature. Sometimes too hot, sometimes too cold. But I managed. I put the water next to the toilet and sat down. Then I put on the leg strap and attached the control unit to it and got the device ready for use.

I was really happy that I made it this far. Now came the next part.. I took the catheter, leaned forward and inserted it into the rectum. I then inflated the balloon.. It is always important to ensure that the end of the catheter is flush with the anus. Only then will the catheter be properly positioned. Then I introduced the water.

The useful thing about a smart, digital device is that once you have found the optimal settings, you can save them and use them each time, adjusting as you need. Once you’ve  found  the right amount of water , the size of the balloon when you inflate it, and the speed at which you take in the water, then the only thing you need to do is press the buttons on the control unit and everything will happen automatically. With no effort whatsoever, just the touch of a button. When all the water was absorbed, I unblocked the balloon, pulled out the catheter, put it back in its sleeve, and waited for what would happen next.

But my intestine did not feel like emptying itself right then and there. However, the nurse had already prepared me for the fact that the intestine would take time to get used to it. Which is why you go to the toilet every day in the beginning. The thought immediately occurred to me that I must have done something wrong. But no. The gut is, I always like to say, a creature of habit. It has to get used to the therapy and the rhythm of it.

And in fact the following time it worked -  my bowel movements started!

My advice to all of you who are about to start irrigating is to stay relaxed and do not tense up or cling to everything. Please keep in mind that we are not machines that always function in the same way. Our subconscious also affects our intestines. Don’t lose heart immediately if things do not go as you would like for them to– and have the courage to experiment with the parameters, such as the speed of the water inflow or the amount of water. Be bold and discover your own gut with a spirit of adventure. You can track your progress but also your failures wonderfully in the app. It’s well worth it!

Since I started the therapy, I've learned to love and appreciate it, even if things don't always go the way I want them to. A lot has changed for the better. I no longer feel as tense and stressed and my mood has changed markedly improved. I wouldn’t use any other method to empty my bowels and I am so happy those days of misery are behind me. I am also proud that I have now become the manager of my own gut!

Download our guide "Bladder and Bowel dysfunction when you have Multiple  Sclerosis"  

Trying Intermittent Catheterization for the first time

This article first appeared in our German blog -

Topics: Transanal irrigation (TAI), Neurogenic bladder, Neurogenic bowel, Bowel dysfunction, Multiple Sklerose (MS)