Call the Midwife Wiki

Olive Nattrass was an elderly member of Trixie’s Keep Fit aerobics class and she appeared in Series 5, Episode 2.

She had seven children and in her old age, she suffered bladder incontinence, causing her much shame and embarrassment. Also, her uterus was prolapsed, meaning the muscles which supported her uterus became stretched and weak and would sag or slip out of place, into the birth canal or vagina. Olive was much too embarrassed to mention it to the doctor. Because of the time when Olive grew up, she didn’t learn the correct terminology about her body, and thought suffering as a woman was the norm and there was no need to mention it.

In her circle of female friends and relatives, Olive would visit her concerns about her body to them, and take their advice, which were antiquated and harmful, and never actually fixed her problem.

At the Keep Fit class, during an exercise where she had to lift her legs, Olive urinated herself and rushed away to the bathroom where she burst into tears. Trixie followed her and Olive explained the situation, and asked Trixie to get her bag so she could slip out unseen. Before leaving, Trixie asks if the incontinence has happened before, to which Olive replies that it’s common for women. Trixie tells her it doesn’t happen unless something is wrong. Olive replies that she thinks there is something wrong, that there’s a “slipping” feeling in her vagina. Trixie tells her to see a doctor immediately, but Olive declines, saying she’s been managing herself. Trixie replies that it obviously hasn’t been working.

Later, at Trixie’s urging, she allows Dr. Turner to give her a pelvic examination, with Trixie holding her hand. Olive is embarrassed, but less so due to the fact that Dr. Turner isn’t a young man. Trixie says she shouldn’t be embarrassed because Dr. Turner isn’t. Dr. Turner tells Olive she has a prolapsed uterus, and it is so advanced that it sometimes slips down through her vagina. Olive asks if that’s the medical term for her genitals, further highlighting the mystery surrounding the human body during the early 1960s, especially among elder adults. She even remarks it’s the first time she’s ever heard the word “vagina”, and that when she was still having children, everyone called it the “down-belows”.

Dr. Turner asks Olive if she’s ever tried to cure herself before, and she sheepishly admits that she has. She tells the doctor that she’s shoved things up her vagina. Olive says her own mother told her what she used to do, which was tie a knot in an old length of flannel, which Olive herself has tried. She also says she’s heard of women shoving rolled up cardboard or different types of fruits or vegetables into their vaginas.  

The doctor puts an end to her struggle and refers Olive for a surgical repair. Olive asks if it will be paid for by the National Health services, and he replies that everything is on the National Health now, and that she only need ask for assistance now, to receive it. Olive replies that she didn’t know how to ask, and didn’t have the terminology to ask.

It is Olive’s case which makes Trixie see how important education around anatomy is, encouraging her to challenge Sister Julienne, who was concerned with modesty and propriety surrounding Trixie’s Keep Fit class.