How to thrive in daily life with incontinence
Urinary incontinence can be tough to navigate, but with a little knowledge and preparation, you can still love your life.
Urinary incontinence (UI) can strike anyone, at any time. But, due to the stress experienced by the female body during pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause, woman tend to experience UI at twice the rate of men, with 4 in 10 women aged 65 or over likely to suffer from bladder control issues.
In addition to pregnancy and age-related causes, recent studies have shown that high-impact activities—such as sport—can influence UI symptoms in women of any age. While UI symptoms were only present in 5.56% of women taking part in low-impact activity, the number skyrocketed to 80% for women who engaged in high-impact sports such as trampolining.
If you suffer from bladder control issues, it can feel isolating and embarrassing, but there’s no reason to let unexpected leaks control your life. With a little knowledge and preparation, you can not only get by in your daily life with UI – you can thrive, too.
With a little planning, you can still enjoy a stress-free day out with UI. If you’re in an unfamiliar environment, consider limiting your liquid intake during the day, to ensure that your bladder is as empty as possible while you’re out and about.
Knowing where the public bathrooms are in your immediate vicinity can significantly reduce the stress of UI. Whenever you’re going somewhere new, do a little research and find out the location of any available public bathrooms; this will allow you to plan frequent bathroom stops on your journey, and give you the confidence of knowing where you can seek refuge if you do experience a UI issue.
Consider specialised products
One of the most anxiety-inducing situations dreaded by UI sufferers is the risk of a bladder leak occurring in a public place, where it can’t be concealed. Luckily, many products exist to alleviate this concern.
Thoughtfully-designed underwear from reputable brands such as knix have perfected leak-proof technology, to the point where up to 8 tsps. of liquid can be captured discretely. Leak-proof underwear looks just like regular underwear, and can even be worn under gym leggings. If you experience smaller, more frequent leaks, specialised UI underwear could be a great option for you.
For more substantial solutions, purpose-built pads and pull ups are widely available; these can hold up to 2200ml in an emergency, and remain hidden under loose fitting clothing.
By simply ensuring that any UI incidents will be discreet, you can gain the confidence to go about your daily life without the risk of embarrassment.
Adress preventable root causes
Some UI issues may be rooted in lifestyle choices, which—if adjusted accordingly—could alleviate the symptoms.
Some foods may act as diuretics if ingested in large amounts, meaning that they increase the volume of your urine and might cause increased urination urges.
If you consume significant amounts of alcohol, caffeine, or carbonated drinks, you may experience more frequent urination, which could mimic or exacerbate UI symptoms.
Consumables that are high in sugar or citric acid can also act as diuretics, so if you’re experiencing UI, consider limiting your intake of chocolates and citric fruits as a good starting point.
Other temporary conditions that may cause UI symptoms are bladder infections (common in women due to the short female urethra) and constipation, which can put pressure on the nerves surrounding your bladder, causing increased urination urges. Taking steps to prevent infections and constipation may reduce the frequency of UI symptoms.
Know what type of incontinence you have
Each individual’s situation is unique; understanding which type of UI you’re experiencing can help you to understand your management options.
There are five main types of UI:
- Stress incontinence is characterized by urine leaking as a result of pressure on the bladder, which can be caused by strenuous movement (including lifting heavy things or exercising), laughing, sneezing, and coughing. Pregnancy and childbirth are leading causes of stress UI.
- Overflow incontinence can be identified by a constant or recurring dribbling of urine, due to your bladder not completely emptying.
- Urge incontinence is fairly common in individuals with serious conditions such as diabetes, and those with urinary tract infections. It is characterized by a sudden and intense urge to urinate, followed by some level of involuntary urination.
- Functional incontinence is slightly different, in that a physical or mental impairment prevents you from being able to hold your bladder long enough to get to the bathroom—say for instance that you have a mobility issue, and it takes you some time to get to the bathroom.
- Mixed incontinence is a term used when an individual is experiencing more than one type of incontinence. It’s common for women to have symptoms of both stress and urge UI, with these mixed symptoms being present in 20% to 36% of women.
Explore treatment options
Some types of UI may be approached with personalised treatment plans.
Bladder training and pelvic floor strength training are common UI management options, and may assist women in managing their existing symptoms, as well as preventing further symptoms from developing. Kegel pelvic floor exercises are often recommended in women of all ages, and vaginal weights have allegedly been associated with UI improvements and stronger pelvic floors.
Being overweight has been associated with increased UI symptoms; weight loss might be an effective UI treatment option in some UI sufferers. Some find that simply adjusting their toilet habits has a significant impact on reducing their symptoms. Ensuring that you only empty your bladder when it feels full, and taking care to let urine flow at its own pace—without using the pelvic floor muscles to speed up the process, may assist in preventing further weakening of those muscles.
A medical specialist can recommend which options may work better for you, and discuss more comprehensive surgical alternatives if those are better-suited to your situation.
UI is a common health issue among women, and nothing to be ashamed of
If you’re experiencing bladder control issues, a medical professional can work with you to diagnose the root cause and discuss treatment options.
By understanding common causes of UI, being prepared with specialized leak-proof products, and taking preventative measures when out and about, living your best life with urinary incontinence becomes is a much easier task.