There are still some functions and natural occurrences in our bodies that carry a taboo. We are beginning to talk more openly and comfortably about certain things and especially natural bodily functions, however, some of them we still cloak in embarrassment and pretend aren’t happening to us and don’t end up talking about the issue, or the shame that surrounds it, and this is the case with bladder leakage. This cloud of taboo embarrassment can also then cause many conditions of bladder leakage to go undiagnosed a lot longer than they need to.
Bladder leakage affects 1 in 4 women! Yes, 1 in 4. And it affects twice as many women as men! It’s time we started deciphering the condition and challenging the stigma around something that is certainly not shameful, and doesn’t just affect children and the elderly! So, let’s talk about it!
WHAT’S BLADDER LEAKAGE
Urinary incontinence, as it’s known in the medical world, is not a disease. It is most often the symptom of a number of different conditions. There are 3 different types of urinary incontinence that can affect both men and women.
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) – This is more common to women, and unlikely to be found in men. It occurs when the pelvic floor muscles have stretched, often from having had babies. Physical activity then puts pressure on the bladder, causing the bladder to leak. Leaking may happen when skipping, jumping, exercising, walking, lifting, sneezing, running, laughing or coughing. It can be anything from as little as a few drops of urine to a tablespoon or more. There aren’t really any proven medicines to treat it as yet, however leak proof underwear is one of the best and safest ways to ensure that those sneezes, giggles or regular exercise aren’t interrupted by leaks.
Overactive Bladder (OAB) – or urgency incontinence, affects more than 30% of men and 40% of women. OAB causes your brain to tell your bladder to empty, even when it isn’t full. Alternatively it is caused by the bladder muscles being too active. They contract to pass urine before your bladder is full. This causes the ‘urge’ to urinate. Many things can cause this type of incontinence, however it can be affected by diet, and more often occurs in men with prostate problems and women after menopause. This type of incontinence can also be stimulated by types of urinary tract infections.
Overflow Incontinence – This is more common in men than in women and can be a result of prostate problems or prostate surgery. The body makes more urine than the bladder can hold or the bladder is full and cannot empty thereby causing it to leak urine. In addition, there may be something blocking the flow or the bladder muscle may not contract as it should. Symptoms can be frequent urinating of a small amount or a constant drip.
WHY DOES BLADDER LEAKAGE OCCUR
There are many potential causes that can result in urinary incontinence, some are mild and treatable and some can be a symptom or something more serious, so it is always worth speaking to a health care professional if you develop urinary incontinence, as they can determine the cause and aid in managing it.
Aging – It’s unfortunate but inevitable. As we age the muscles surrounding our bladder weaken, causing effects of incontinence. Maintaining a strong, healthy body and muscles result in a better chance of avoiding incontinence.
Pregnancy, childbirth and menopause - are unique to women, which make us twice as likely to develop urinary incontinence than men. Bladder leakage after pregnancy occurs due to the building pressures and muscular demands of pregnancy and childbirth. The hormonal changes that occur up to and during menopause equally can cause urinary incontinence. However it doesn’t have to be permanent or an inevitable occurrence of having babies or reaching menopause. Pelvic floor exercises, a healthy strong body and muscles can all help to reduce or eliminate entirely incontinence from these causes.
You can read further about our bodies post-partum on our article here.
In addition, not all incontinence is long term. Some incontinence can come from a temporary cause that can be treated or go away on its own. Temporary incontinence can occur due to a vaginal infection, urinary tract infections (UTI) as well as certain medications, constipation and other irritations. All of these affects can result in temporary incontinence, and should be addressed quickly when it occurs to combat the issue and find a result.
You can’t prevent all cases of urinary incontinence, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it. Living a healthy lifestyle is key, maintaining a healthy weight for your body and eating a healthy balanced diet are important for all health benefits, however they are good ways to prevent an occurrence of urinary incontinence. A regular exercise routine, keeping active and moving and ensuring those muscles are also active and strong is another key way to keep your body strong, and strong muscles reduce the risk of urinary incontinence. Try to limit your caffeine and alcohol intake. There’s nothing wrong with a morning coffee or evening glass of wine, they’re important parts of our weekly routines, however, over doing it on either caffeine or alcohol can induce urinary incontinence. And lastly, avoid smoking!
WHAT TO DO ABOUT BLADDER LEAKAGE
If a bladder leakage symptom is new to you, always speak to a medical professional as soon as you can to decipher what the cause can be. Finding the cause can often be the first step to managing it and sometimes eliminating it. Your doctors and health care professionals have seen it all, a leaky bladder won’t offend them and it will certainly help you to tell them and find the cause of the issue. Keeping it hidden and hoping it will go away on its own is not the best way to manage it, and could prolong any temporary causes from getting resolved.
We can combat some bladder leakages with pelvic floor exercises that can strengthen the muscles we rely on down there to keep us from running to the washroom too often.
Kegel Exercises, if you have stress incontinence, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises may help. Kegel exercises are a routine of tightening and holding the muscles in your pelvic floor and then releasing, and repeating numerous times, to help make the muscles under the uterus, bladder, and bowel stronger.
Talk to your doctor or nurse before doing them as they don’t always apply to and help all urinary symptoms and causes.
You can also try to help control overactive bladder, or urge incontinence by going to the bathroom at set times, and urinate each time even if you don’t have to go. Then by gradually increasing the amount of time between visits, your bladder learns to hold more before signalling it needs to go again.
Regardless of the cause, sometimes we are going to need to manage the leaks for a while, even if it is a temporary cause or if it’s a more permanent part of our bodies. We’re not always bathroom adjacent and we definitely don’t want to avoid the laughs and giggles of life due to fear of drips and leaks. There are solutions for this.
The disposable world created the unpleasant plastic diaper which sitting in at work or smuggling under the cocktail dress is your worst nightmare. The best solution for you and for the environment, is reusable, sustainable, absorbent Rosaseven underwear. Made from organic cotton and TENCEL™ Lyocell fabrics, letting your intimate body breathe as it should whilst catching those drips and leaks in an absorbent layer and waterproof outer, no-one will ever know and you are free to embrace all of life’s ups, downs & arounds without the worries of your body’s natural trickles.