Suffering from incontinence? Well, you are definitely not alone. In fact, for women who have given birth (yes, young women), 2 out of 3 begin to suffer from Stress Urinary Incontinence – simple things like coughing, sneezing, laughing, or working out results in involuntary urine release (peeing your pants!).
Furthermore, In 2018, the University of Michigan National Poll on Aging discovered that almost 50% of women over age 50 had experienced urinary incontinence in the previous year. Over 30% of them experience incontinence nearly every day. Yet, the number of those women who talked to their doctors about their incontinence hovers just over 30%.
This means that the majority of women suffering from incontinence, do not seek medical advice. Many are simply embarrassed or believe incontinence is just a part of life and aging that they must get used to.
While it is a difficult topic for many to talk about, incontinence is a medical issue, and there are treatments that work for many people. You don’t have to quietly suffer the physical and emotional effects of incontinence; below we outline some of the treatments that can be looked into.
Urinary incontinence is about more than just a leak. It’s often a quality of life issue both physically and emotionally.
Physically, incontinence can make a person less willing to engage in social and physical activities for fear of embarrassing leaks or odor. And the dampness from leakage contributes to skin rashes and infections, as well as urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Emotionally, incontinence contributes to social withdrawal, a decrease in activities once enjoyed, anxiety, depression, and intimacy issues. Many who suffer from incontinence feel embarrassed, ashamed, or like they are no longer in control of their life.
The majority don’t talk about it, even to their doctors.
Women who deal with incontinence on their own often use one or more of the following methods:
The first three methods only hide or mask the issue and may contribute to other issues. For instance, wearing pads or layered clothing to hide or cover leaks may be enough for an occasional leak. But for some women, those methods might not offer enough coverage or may still not address their fear of odor.
Decreasing fluid intake might be a viable option in the evening, to decrease the chance of nighttime leakage (nocturia) but limiting fluid intake too much puts you at risk for dehydration and UTI. Pads, too, can raise your risk of UTI by trapping bacteria in an already damp environment.
Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels), on the other hand, help address the main cause of urinary incontinence — not just mask it. Kegels can be a good option to help strengthen the muscles that support the bladder, and they are easy to do any time of day. Other good at-home treatments include:
Diet changes —Alcohol, caffeine, acidic or spicy foods, carbonated beverages, or the amount you drink may contribute to bladder issues.
Scheduling — Using the bathroom every 2-4 hours on schedule may prevent leaks.
Double-voiding — Going, and then going again a few minutes later, may help empty your bladder more completely.
Bladder training — Waiting a few minutes when you have the urge to urinate may help you lengthen the time between trips, with a goal of emptying your bladder about every 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
Physiotherapists and doctors can help. Your doctor will probably talk to you about behavioral methods like those above first, but when those are not enough there are medical interventions you can try with your doctor’s recommendation. Your doctor can prescribe medications that calm your bladder or medical devices designed to support your bladder or prevent leakage. Physiotherapists can help with very specific and targeted movements and exercises that pinpoint precise tissue strengthening for desired benefits.
If you plan to consult a physician, find one who specializes in incontinence. In Calgary you can check out The Allan Centre (www.allancentre.com), which is a medical clinic that has specialized in women’s health and incontinence for over 20 years and they offer a range of treatments including non-surgical options that are very effective. Among the possible therapies is a non-invasive procedure to enhance local collagen production in vaginal tissues. This helps the tissues regain strength and properly support the bladder to prevent incontinence.
Other experts in Calgary include physiotherapists like Gina Cerantola at Optimum Perinatal Health (www.optimumperinatal.com) whose specialty in women’s health includes a focus on pelvic health, incontinence, pelvic pain, vaginal varicose veins, and pre and postnatal physiotherapy.
The best time to talk to a health practitioner about incontinence is as soon as possible. According to the National Association for Continence, most people suffer for about six years before seeking medical help. You don’t have to suffer in silence. You are not alone. Talking to your health practitioner may be the first step in getting your life back.