Urinary incontinence, it's not so funny when it's you

There’s been quite a bit of attention on urinary incontinence lately. Or at least that is my perception. Just last month, I came across an article in my local town magazine highlighting the leaky problem many women face and the solutions, usually Kegels or surgery. Before that, I got involved in a discussion with some women who joked about not being able to jump without leaking. And shortly before Mother’s Day, I came across an image giving moms gold stars for jumping without peeing. Some of these discussions had a comedic tone behind them, but I don’t think there’s anything funny about peeing on yourself.  For those of you that are unfortunate to have this issue, you know it’s time consuming, messy, embarrassing, and it can take a big toll on emotional health. So let’s get our laughs out, without leaking of course, and talk about fixing this problem.

Incontinence is the inability to hold urine, gas or feces when you intend to. One of the roles of your pelvic floor muscles, the internal muscles in and around the vagina, penis, and rectum, is to prevent such leakage during inappropriate times. It is important to note that incontinence is not a disease or condition, rather a symptom of something else. It knows no barriers such as age or sex. It affects women of all ages, regardless of pregnancy and birth history, men, children, and even athletes.

How do you answer the following questions?

  1. Do you leak urine during activity such as lifting, sneezing, coughing or jumping?
  2. Do you experience a strong urge to go and/or leak on the way?
  3. Do you go more than 8 times a day?
  4. Have you wet the bed in the last year?
  5. Do you leak after going when you thought you were done?
  6. Do you have trouble initiating a stream?
  7. Are you going to the bathroom before you leave the house, just in case you have to go on the way to your destination?
  8. Do you wear a pad or liner to keep dry?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing urinary incontinence, which remember, is a sign of something else going on. Until you seek treatment, here are a few things you can try until you get the help you deserve.

  • Sit on the toilet…all the way down. Yes, I mean in public bathrooms as well
  • Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, citrus and spicy food
  • Do the potty dance like the kids do; cross your legs and apply pressure to your perineum during a strong urge
  • Slow down and try deep breathing to reduce the urge
  • Keep a bladder diary and make note of when you leak, how much you leak, and the foods and drinks you consume throughout the day
  • Talk to your doctor or a pelvic floor physical therapist

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to speak to someone. Your doctor may not routinely question you about your bathroom habits so it's up to you to bring up the subject. Since urinary incontinence is a symptom of something else, don’t delay in speaking up about your symptoms and your concerns. It is best to learn what is causing your problems and get proper treatment. Your primary doctor, midwife, OB/GYN, urologist, urogynocologist, or whomever you decide to see may send you to a pelvic floor physical therapist as a non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical, holistic treatment option. In many states like New Jersey, a visit to a physical therapist does not require a referral or prescription. You can simply call and make an appointment directly. Your physical therapist will take a detailed history of your symptoms, assess your mobility, strength, and coordination, determine if treatment is appropriate and with your input, formulate a treatment plan just for you. Treatment may include behavioral retraining, lots of education, and pelvic floor muscle exercises. To find your local, specially trained physical therapist, click here.

Incontinence is unfortunately a common occurrence among men, women and children, but that does not equate to normal. There is nothing normal about peeing on yourself with any amount of activity, no matter what you have been through. Treatment should be sought as soon as possible to break whatever habit has already developed.

Take some time to focus and take care of yourself. Because wouldn’t it be nice to jump on the trampoline with your children, run a few miles without soaking yourself, save money not buying pads and liners, take an extra long walk in the park or be able to sit in traffic without thinking about a toilet?  

Wouldn’t it be lovely?