Dr Zoe Williams urges women not to accept incontinence as just 'a part of getting older'03/21/2021
HAVE you ever felt it? That tiny trickle of pee after sneezing, skipping at the gym or when you’re out for a run?
If so, you’re not alone. New research from incontinence management company Tena found that 70 per cent of women aged 35 to 65 have experienced bladder leakage.
That’s a huge number of women, and while it might therefore seem normal, it’s not.
It might be something you joke with girlfriends about, or just resign yourself to the fact it’s a normal part of getting older. It’s not.
Too many women just accept it and think that’s just their lot.
As a society we have normalised it, but it can have a hugely detrimental impact on women’s lives.
My key message is, don’t just accept it – there are things your GP can suggest to help.
The first step is understanding a bit more about incontinence and knowing there are two types.
Stress incontinence is when you leak a very small amount of urine – when you cough or sneeze, laugh or exercise, for example.
I always tell my patients if you can skip without a leakage then you have a strong pelvic floor.
Urge incontinence is another form, and happens when your brain sends the signal to let your bladder know it’s time to go for a pee.
In this situation, women will often feel a sudden urge to go to the toilet without any prior warning.
The bladder may contract when it shouldn’t, causing urine leaks.
One common misconception around incontinence is that it only happens to older or pregnant women. But the reality is, it can affect us at any age.
Whatever your age, if you suffer with urine leakage, you don’t just have to put up with it
That said, it’s most common in women over the age of 30, if you’re pregnant or if you have had a vaginal birth and if you have experienced menopause.
Women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over – which can mean you’re overweight or suffering obesity – are also at higher risk of incontinence.
Whatever your age, if you suffer with urine leakage, you don’t just have to put up with it.
What’s more, there are things you can do to prevent incontinence from happening.
The key is to understand and look after your pelvic floor muscles.
Imagine your pelvic floor as a sling that holds the womb, bladder and rectum in place
Keeping them strong can help ease incontinence, treat pelvic organ prolapse and even help make sex better too
The beauty of exercising your pelvic floor muscles is you can do it anytime, anywhere – and no one ever needs to know.
You can feel your pelvic floor muscles if you try to stop the flow of urine when you go to the toilet.
Having said that, it’s not recommended that you stop the flow midstream regularly as it can be harmful to your bladder.
Instead, sit comfortably and squeeze the muscles and hold, ten to 15 times.
Don’t hold your breath, or tighten your stomach, bottom or thigh muscles at the same time.
Whatever you put in, has to come out – and spicy foods and caffeine can make incontinence more likely
Then add in more squeezes and hold for a bit longer. After a few months, you should start to notice the results.
Even when you feel like they’re starting to work, or if you haven’t really noticed you have a problem with urine leakage, it’s worth just exercising the muscles as part of your self-care regime.
Build it in with other habits, such as brushing your teeth or making a cuppa.
As well as pelvic floor exercises, I also advise my patients to look at their diet.
Whatever you put in, has to come out – and spicy foods and caffeine can make incontinence more likely.
Try not to drink too much before bed, and reduce alcohol and smoking, as both can raise incontinence risk.
We only live once, and with so many ways to manage, treat and prevent urinary incontinence, women should not have to restrict or limit their lives.
I hear so many women tell me they have to stop doing the things they love, like running, because they are worried about incontinence.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Tena has a range of products that can help, and if you’re worried, speak to your GP.
Don’t feel embarrassed or worried – it’s what we’re here for and we want to help.
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