New research has found that over half of us are experiencing weak bladder issues, but are too ashamed to say anything about it. With 32% of regular sufferers seeing their sex life affected by the condition and 63% saying it’s had a negative impact on their social lives, it’s time we put an end to the silence.
The findings were released in conjunction with a new health information campaign called Don’t Grin and Bear It. The campaign, supported by GP and health commentator, Dr Ciara Kelly, is encouraging women to seek help for weak bladder issues.
Q: The other day some food went down the wrong way and I had a fit of coughing. I very quickly realised that I had wet myself during that episode. I am 37 and had 4 caesarean sections. I am in good health. Any tips on reducing the risk of that happening again? Thankfully I was at home, but I would be scared that it would happen whilst out of the house.
A: Stress incontinence - leakage on coughing or sneezing is caused by a weakness of your pelvic floor. To minimise this in future you should take action now to strengthen your pelvic floor with exercises and neuromuscular stimulation. There’s no way of fixing this overnight but you should start strengthening it now as otherwise it can become progressively worse.
Q: I suffer badly from stress incontinence, always have in my 20s but even more so now after my pregnancies! I can't sneeze and I dread getting a cough as I leak so badly! It's actually embarrassing!! I've been to my doctor about my pelvic floor muscles, which I know I don't do enough but should I go back and get some medication or is there something else I can do! Please help I'm desperate as now I can't even exercise without leaking even if I go for a fast walk!!
A: There is medication but you should engage with pelvic floor exercises as a first line. Exercise, physio and neuromuscular stimulation all help with this. I would try this either prior to or in conjunction with taking meds.
Q: Stress incontinence: Can the problem be partially hormonal as well? I find when I am getting closer to my time of the month I have a problem, for 3 weeks I am fine , then the week before my period, I have a problem..
A: Usually that’s to do with changes that occur as your uterus becomes more bulky as the lining thickens coming up to your period.
Q: I leak a little ... Is that not normal? How do I get it diagnosed officially?
A: It’s not normal but it’s all too common - go and see your GP to assess if you’re suffering with stress urinary incontinence, urge urinary incontinence or mixed incontinence, and to discuss what the best options for treatment are - there’s loads that can be done!
Q: Never had a vaginal birth, but have (for a long, long time) always leaked. I would always wear a panty liner, but it's not a big flow, is that normal?
A: Not normal but very common. I would suggest talking to your GP about what’s needed by way of strengthening your pelvic floor or medications to try and improve matters.
Q: I regularly have a great urge to go to the loo, although there is very little there. I would often have leakage during the day. What's that from? And is there anything I can do to cure it? I feel like I can't go very far from the house in case I need to go (for real this time) and unless I know there is a toilet where I'm going, I just don't bother. It's so frustrating
A: This is known as urge urinary incontinence. There is medication available to help with it and also some devices that stimulate your pelvic floor may be of some benefit too. Don’t allow this to dictate how you’re living your life - get some advice from your GP as it’s treatable.
Q: I'm on tablets for my blood pressure, and I recently heard that these can have a worsening effect on incontinence - is that true?
A: Some diuretic tablets used for BP can have an effect on the frequency of passing urine - you may need to get your meds adjusted.
Q: Are there things in my day to day diet making the incontinence worse?
A: No, not unless you’re drinking lots of sugary citrus drinks!
Q: I'm not incontinent, but my mother always told me not to 'hold on' as it's bad for you (I always do and end up rushing to the loo in a mad panic) - can this cause incontinence?
A: Not really. Training yourself to be able to hold a full volume of urine in your bladder may in fact be helpful. But when you really need to go - you should make time to do so.
Q: I am trying to reduce my intake of water but are there any foods/drinks that I should definitely avoid or include?
A: Don’t reduce your intake of water too much, you need it - it’s good for you! Avoid sugary citrus drinks they can be an irritant.
Q: I have two kids 4 & 2 years and have just turned 40. When they were born I was never good a remembering to do pelvic floor exercises to strengthen my bladder. I know I have a weak bladder now due to this - can I reverse this now if I do the exercises or is it too late? Thanks.
A: No it’s never too late! Start now with exercises and if needs be, neuromuscular stimulation. You can improve muscular strength at any time.
Q: Will having a third baby make my bladder even worse?
A: Truthfully – possibly, but that’s not a reason to not extend your family if you want to - you just need to make sure you look after your pelvic floor by keeping it strong.
Q: I'm in my 30s, have 3 children and suffer from urge incontinence which has become really embarrassing and has been really badly affecting my sex life and enjoyment of sex…Is there anything I can do? Do I have to just put up with this forever?
A: There are tablets that can help with urge urinary incontinence and also some devices you wear that stimulate your pelvic floor that may be helpful. I suggest you go to your doctor to discuss your options - don’t let this issue affect your relationship.
Q: Why aren’t post-natal wards involved in bed exercising for women after birth and follow on care at home too, I'm only 24 and suffer with bladder incontinence I can’t even sit down in a rush without a gush uggghhh so embarrassing.
A: Truthfully it's because they don’t have staff/time/resources etc. The service is stretched to breaking point -but that is not a reason for you to not undertake your own programme of exercise. And don’t be embarrassed - it’s a really common problem.
Q: As a young mum of 2 currently pregnant with 3 I have a very weak bladder when I sneeze omg it’s like I full on pee myself it's very embarrassing. Is there any way I can change this or help myself as it’s ruining my day and confidence.
A: Not much you can do while you’re pregnant apart from doing your pelvic floor exercises regularly and going to the loo frequently. After the pregnancy you should really, really work on strengthening your pelvic floor though.
Q: When I come home, I often want to go to the toilet for no apparent reason - is this just psychological or does it have a bladder-based problem? Why does coming home trigger the urge to go to the toilet?
A: Maybe it’s just habit or maybe you’ve been holding on to go at home?
Q: I've had three children, but didn't suffer from incontinence directly after. They are now teens, I'm nearing 50 and I find it's happening to me now. I don't have to be doing anything, and it suddenly happens. Is this from pregnancy? Is it normal? Is there treatment?
A: This is likely due to the fact that post menopause, this issue can get worse. Treatment remains the same, strengthen your pelvic floor, meds if needed and in some cases women at this stage may need surgery.
Q: I don't necessarily leak, but I do have the urge to go to the loo all the time, and it's getting worse, at night too. I don’t always need to go. Is this incontinence?
A: It’s not incontinence unless you leak. If you just have urge /urgency you should try to hold off going to the toilet all the time and only go every 2 hours or so to train your bladder to hold on. Going constantly isn’t helpful.
Q: I seem to always just miss getting to the toilet on time, is that normal? I feel like I've always been like this, and wear pads/liners all the time, for as long as I can remember to catch the leaks. I'm in my 30s. Never thought to ask a doctor about it. Just presumed that was the way it was.
A: This is urgency. Plan to go to the toilet at regular intervals. Don’t wait until you’re desperate. And if that fails there are meds and devices that can help with this - it’s not something you have to put up with.
Q: All I have to do is see or hear water and I need to rush to the toilet, and even if I have the tiniest drink, I need to go urgently. It's very disruptive and really limits what I do and where I'm willing to go (always needing to know if there is a bathroom nearby) - I've reduced my water intake, but find I get bad headaches if I don't drink a lot. Feel like I'm stuck in a rut. Any suggestions?
A: Yes you have urge incontinence. You should try and train your bladder to go at regular intervals and hold off rushing every time you see water - you should also talk to your doctor about meds and devices that can help with urge incontinence- you don’t have to put up with it!
For more information on incontinence and advice on how to treat the condition, visit www.neurotechvital.ie