“This morning I coughed so hard a little bit of pee came out. That’s new.”
My friend posted that on Facebook, to immediate response. Most of her friends were funny and a lot were resigned; women deal with urinary leaks all the time. If you are over 50, or younger with kids, you probably know the drill: cross your legs when you sneeze, cough or laugh too hard. Don’t jump on the trampoline with your kids (or grandkids, or girlfriends) with a full bladder. Make sure you hit the bathroom for the pre-workout pee before any routine or class that includes box jumps, double unders, or Olympic lifts. When traveling, never pass up a toilet.
Whether this is a fairly new experience or you’ve been leaking for years, check out this data in support of Bladder Health Awareness Month. We added some other information we recently came across about treatment options.
November is Bladder Health Awareness Month (who knew?)
In support of Bladder Health Awareness Month, the American Urogynecologic Society (UAGS) has put out some handy graphics that explain how and why different types of urinary leaks happen: Cool Stress Urinary Incontinence Graphic
According to the UAGS, stress urinary incontinence (SUI) affects one in three women over the age of 45. Overactive bladder (OAB), also called urge incontinence, involves a sudden and powerful need to urinate.
Isolation is Real
Many women will avoid activities that cause leaks, which is bad enough when you are a new mom and can’t go out with that one friend who always makes you laugh too hard after a glass of wine. It’s kind of funny when you are home and dry, but isolation can be a real and debilitating consequence of incontinence.
Kathleen Connell, MD, shared this on a blog about Safe Overactive Bladder Treatments in the Age of Dementia:
- 13 million Americans are incontinent, and 11 million (84 percent) of those are women.
- 20-30 percent of women age 40 or older have Urinary Incontinence (UI).
- Only about 18-50 percent of women with UI seek treatment.
- 50 percent or more of the elderly living at home or in long-term care facilities have UI.
- UI is the #1 motivating factor for people to put an elderly relative in a nursing home.
If leaking keeps you from going to the gym, or walking your dog, or going to the grocery store/church/book club, please talk to someone about it. Read that third bullet above again. Only 18-50 percent of women seek treatment for urinary incontinence. That leaves a lot of women alone out there.
Side Affects Can Be Bad
Drugs can be prescribed, and that used to be more common. Dr. Connell, in her blog, warns against anticholinergic medications. Anticholinergics are drugs that block the action of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter, or a chemical messenger. It transfers signals between certain cells to affect how your body functions. The American Urogynecologic Society issued a statement last year about the use of such drugs for incontinence, citing concerns that anticholinergic medications could increase dementia in the long run.
Short-term solution, long-term dementia? That might not be a great option.
So, What Can You Do?
Most doctors, like Dr. Connell, recommend starting with kegel exercises and behavior modifications such as restricting fluids, timing urination, and limiting bladder irritants like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
Pelvic floor therapists specialize in helping strengthen muscles against leaks. We’ll interview a pelvic floor therapist in an upcoming blog post, and let you know how you can find one in your area. Some doctors recommend surgery for severe cases, and we’ll look into those options in another post.
Our Incontinence Page has more information that may help.
Let’s Talk Leaks!
Let us know if you have tips of your own. Talking is good therapy, and one of the reasons we started this blog. Talking about leaking is what led us to start this company. Until we talked about it, we didn’t know how many women were affected by urinary leaks, and how much we needed each others’ help and support.