'

GET ACTIVE

Encourage others to start talking and gain control of their bladder health!  We've made it simple for you to share National Bladder Health Week news, resources, tips and tools with your friends, family and healthcare providers.  We have a variety of  simple activities you can choose from to promote awareness of bladder health.  They are cut and paste one of the sample newsletter or emails below.

28 Society Street
Charleston, SC, 29401
United States

800-252-3337

NAFC is a non-profit offering resources for #incontinence, #bladderleakage, bedwetting, OAB, SUI, nocturia, neurogenic bladder, and pelvic floor disorders.

Incontinence Stories From Experts & Real People | NAFC BHealth Blog

Log in daily to learn tips about #incontinence, #bladder leakage, overcoming symptoms, and first hand accounts from experts and patients.

 

But You Look So Good

Maggie Zehring

A Guest Blog Post from Alice Thomas

In the early days of my MS I regularly heard ‘But, you look so good.’ While I have always been happy to have my good looks admired, rather than feeling like a true compliment, this statement often came across as one of disbelief that there could possibly be anything wrong with me.

I have even been skeptically asked ‘Are they sure you have MS? You don’t look sick.’ To which I am tempted to reply ‘You don’t look ignorant’. Because the question is inherently impudent and compels us to provide proof we actually have a disease. As patients, we don’t want pity but we do wish to be understood and we shouldn’t have to explain. So, what’s the answer?

One of the barriers to negating this confusion is that invisible symptoms can be difficult and even socially unacceptable to talk about. Amongst the many aspects of MS that aren’t obvious to the casual observer, bladder and bowel dysfunction are some of the most distressing. During my own looking so good days, this may have been the most troubling of my symptoms. I didn’t understand it so how could I talk about it and furthermore, why would I want to? It didn’t seem right to answer the old ‘But, you look so good?’ raised eyebrow with the truth that actually I was up all night doing laundry and crying because I’d peed the bed.

Adding to the frustration and confusion that looking good doesn’t necessarily equal feeling good, is that we as patients already question this ourselves and sometimes we are the most unforgiving accusers of all. We too can’t clearly see our own fatigue, nerve pain, numbness, muscle weakness or heat sensitivity. Consequently, we repeatedly set ourselves up for failure by not recognizing or respecting these unseen forces and then feel angry and defeated when we can’t accomplish what we’ve set out to do. We are the unwilling soldiers in our bodies’ civil war and it is a physical battle but also an emotional one. The physical struggle might be about the strength of our legs on any given day but the mental one is often an argument to simply will ourselves to do that which, based on how we look, we think we should be able. What we need to tell ourselves is the same thing we need to hear from others. MS is real. MS is hard.  

The answer to the dreaded ‘looking good’ statement isn’t to defensively list off every manifestation of the nasty disease that exists within us. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of something as intimate as your health. Nor should you have to prove your condition. But the question isn’t going away. Determining what is caring inquiry and what is idle curiosity can inform your response in these interactions. I’ve often found myself uncomfortably blurting out more than I wanted with someone who didn’t really care anyway. Rather than referencing my latest MRI, I’ve learned to point to some resources. Now when someone remarks on my striking countenance I say ‘Thanks, I inherited my mother’s flawless skin. MS is a complicated illness. If you want to know more, may I suggest checking out the MS Society website?’.

We are all curious from time to time. Let us act out of compassion and before we glibly assess the state of someone else’s health, of which we actually know nothing, pause a moment and instead of saying ‘but, you don’t look sick’ admit that we don’t really know much about the problem and ask how we could find out more.

Alice Thomas lives in Toronto with her husband and dog. She is an avid traveler, an arts enthusiast and a cheese fanatic. She is the author of the blog Tripping on Air - My trip through life with MS.  

Alice Thomas lives in Toronto with her husband and dog. She is an avid traveler, an arts enthusiast and a cheese fanatic. She is the author of the blog Tripping on Air - My trip through life with MS.  

The Link Between Diabetes And Neurogenic Bladder

Sarah Jenkins

diabetes and neurogenic bladder

Diabetes is a growing epidemic in our nation. More than 29 million Americans currently suffer from diabetes, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that by 2050, as many as 1 out of every 3 adults in the US could have the condition.

Many of us have heard the common complications associated with diabetes: heart disease and stroke, eye problems, including blindness, kidney disease and amputations due to damaged blood vessels and nerves.  But did you know that diabetes can also lead to neurogenic bladder?

Neurogenic bladder is a condition that occurs when nerve damage has occurred, preventing the bladder from emptying properly. Symptoms can include a frequent and strong urge to urinate (but in small amounts), difficulty emptying the bladder, incontinence, and urinary retention. Many people associate neurogenic bladder with conditions such as spinal cord injuries, MS, Alzheimer’s Disease, or Parkinson’s Disease. But neurogenic bladder can happen in people with diabetes too, as a result of diabetic neuropathy, which causes the bladder to lose the ability to sense when it is full.

The good news is that there are treatment options available for neurogenic bladder. Lifestyle changes, such as scheduled voiding, dietary changes, and keeping a bladder diary are a helpful start and can make a big difference.  Several drugs and procedures can help with symptoms of overactive bladder, and for those who have difficulty urinating, catheters can be a big help as well. Finally, surgery options are available. 

Of course, if you are pre-diabetic, the best course of treatment is prevention. Keeping your A1C levels in check with proper diet and exercise is essential in ensuring that you maintain a healthy weight.  Eating healthy foods at moderate portions, and getting in 30 minutes of physical activity can delay and in some cases prevent the disease.

If you are concerned about diabetes, talk with your doctor. He or she will help you assess your risk factors, and start you on a plan to combat this very prevalent disease.

Ask The Expert: What's The Best Way To Prevent UTI's When You Have A Neurogenic Bladder?

Sarah Jenkins

UTI's and neurogenic bladder

Question:  What’s the best way to prevent UTI’s when you have a neurogenic bladder?

Answer:  Unfortunately, Urinary Tract Infections are common in patients with neurogenic bladder. Patients with neurogenic bladder often have a harder time completely emptying their bladder. They also are often unable to sense that the bladder is full, resulting in them holding urine for too long.  Some patients also self catheterize, or use indwelling catheters, which can present complications leading to a UTI.

Of course, the best treatment of a UTI is prevention.  Below are 2 simple steps that patients living with neurogenic bladders can take to avoid bladder infections.

  1. Keep things clean. It stands to reason that keeping yourself, and any equipment used to assist with voiding, hygienic can help keep bacteria at bay. Be sure to properly clean your body, and any external catheters after each use. Always wash hands before and after self-catheterizing.  During a short-term infection, change indwelling catheters and be sure that the bladder fully empties to prevent urine from remaining in the bladder for too long.
  2. Develop a voiding schedule. While many things are considered when deciding when to catheterize, including patient and caregiver schedules and urine production, steps should be taken to ensure that the bladder is emptied frequently to prevent infections. Develop a schedule that works for you and stick to it.

UTI’s can cause many complications for people with Neurogenic Bladder, including decreased quality of life and other serious health concerns. If you are experiencing any common signs of a UTI, call your doctor.

Common signs of a UTI:

  • Fever
  • Urinary incontinence/leaking around the catheter
  • Cloudy urine
  • Spasticity
  • Back pain
  • Bladder pain
  • Lethargy
  • Painful or difficult urination
  • Sudden, high blood pressure

I am not MS, by Alice Thomas

Steve Gregg

MS is not a suffix at the end of my name. My life with MS, is just my life. 15 years after my diagnosis an MS-free existence is as foreign to me as all night study sessions and the days when my RDA of fruit could be met with grape jello-shots and strawberry pop-tarts. That was another life. One that would hopefully seem strange and remote to me now regardless of my health status. My life with MS is not a separate thing. My life with MS is just my life.

When I was diagnosed I expected everything I knew about myself to change. Suddenly I was a Person With A Disease. I didn’t know what that meant but I was convinced I was about to become someone else. A statistic. A sick person. Irrelevant. Nothing else about me would matter. The first and most important thing people would learn and know about me would be that I had MS. I was terrified of how others would perceive me but more importantly of how my own sense of self might be lost to a new reality. This identity crisis which threatened to convince me I was ‘less than’ for simply having a disease, was as disabling as any physical symptom I’d experienced. 

The early years of my diagnosis brought about massive changes to my life. Optic neuritis meant I was no longer able to drive a car. Weakened legs caused me to change apartments because of stairs and I was forced to leave my job. MS introduced tremendous challenges to my world. But that’s not the whole story. It seems at best cliché and at worst sacrilegious to admit but there have been some positives. Eventually I took the crisis as an opportunity to re-assess what is important to me. It helped me clarify my priorities. I do what I love.

Over time I have adapted to my changing physical body and circumstance and surprisingly I haven’t stopped being me. I didn’t become ‘less than’. In fact in some ways it could be argued I became more me. The things that are fundamentally Alice cannot be altered by a disease. I am incontrovertibly a story-teller, a traveler and a lover of life. A singer, a volunteer, an art loving, wine drinking, dog mum. I am empathetic, enthusiastic, creative and kind. I am curious about the world. I am an advocate and an ambassador. I am a foodie, a fun time, a baker and a homemaker. An optimistic, advisor, a student and a teacher. My life as an artist, a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, these are the things that define me. I am not my job, my car or some stupid apartment. MS is not the most important thing about me, nor is it the most interesting. I am not MS. 

Peace didn’t arrive overnight. Every loss has been mourned. I must consider X, Y and Z each day and while it’s true most may not, they have their own alphabet soups to contend with, full of realities and problems completely foreign to me. As novelist Tom Holt says, “Human beings can get used to virtually anything, given enough time and no choice in the matter whatsoever.” We can adapt. The degree to which we are able to reconcile and coexist with calamity is the degree to which we are able to find our peace.

Grieve the changes. Adjust expectations. Live your life. 

Life with MS is complicated. We argue a lot. But it’s my life and I’m grateful for it.

Alice Thomas lives in Toronto with her husband and dog. She is an avid traveler, an arts enthusiast and a cheese fanatic. She is the author of the blog Tripping on Air - My trip through life with MS.  

Alice Thomas lives in Toronto with her husband and dog. She is an avid traveler, an arts enthusiast and a cheese fanatic. She is the author of the blog Tripping on Air - My trip through life with MS.  

Watch This Video Of How Botox Helped A Woman With MS Battle Neurogenic Bladder

Sarah Jenkins

If you're reading this article, you, or someone you know, have likely dealt with some form of incontinence before. It's a common occurrence (more common than most think!), and can be a source of daily annoyance, shame and fear in our lives. 

For those living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), bladder dysfunction is often present and can greatly affect the quality of one's life. Symptoms such as hesitation, interrupted or weak flow, incomplete emptying, incontinence, frequency, and pain are reported by many who suffer from MS.  However, there is hope.  Many treatments are available to those living with this condition.  Watch the videos below to see how Amy, an MS sufferer, bravely describes her struggles with neurogenic bladder, and her amazing transformation after she started treating it with Botox. 

Amy's Before Video

 

Amy's After Video

Video Roundup – Four Inspiring Stories Of People Who Have Overcome Neurogenic Bladders

Sarah Jenkins

Becoming paralyzed or learning that you have MS or another neurological condition is anyone’s worst nightmare. The everyday freedoms that most of us take for granted suddenly become the main focus of life and things that were easy before become monumentally more difficult. We’ve rounded up stories from 4 inspiring people who have overcome tremendous obstacles and are determined to live life on their own terms. Watch their amazing stories in the links below.

Botox Injections For Neurogenic Bladder

Watch this self-taped video from Paralyzed Living about how he uses Botox injections to treat his neurogenic bladder.

Daniela’s Story

Watch Daniela’s inspiring story of how a freak accident left her a quadriplegic, unable to use her legs, and limited use of her arms and hands. Daniela struggled with bladder management, and finally took matters into her own hands by conducting extensive research into her options and finding a solution that has helped her regain her independence.

Audrey’s story

Audrey became paralyzed after an accident and suffered from bowel issues, but found the freedom to do what she wants from using Peristeen, a product for bowel management.

Amy’s Story

MS can wreak havoc on your bladder, resulting in urgent and frequent trips to the restroom, and in some cases, leakage. Watch this story from Amy, on how she used Botox to help her regain control.

Amy’s Video Diary – Before:  

Amy’s Video Diary – After:

Do you have your own story you’d like to share? Contact us!

Watch NAFC's Videos For Tips On Self-Catheterization

Sarah Jenkins

Being told that you have to use a catheter can be scary, but many people use a catheter to empty their bladders on both a temporary and a long-term basis.  And while you might recoil from the idea at first, once you get the hang of using one and see the benefits it can bring, it you may wonder how you were ever able to get by without it.

With a little practice, using a catheter can become second nature to you. Here are our best tips for using a urinary catheter.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor lots of questions. Catheters should be prescribed by your doctor and proper instruction should be given to you by your healthcare provider. If you are unsure of the process, speak up.
  • Be sure to keep the catheter and catheter site clean to avoid infections (UTIs are common with those using a catheter). Wash at least twice per day.
  • Use lubrication when inserting the catheter to reduce pain, discomfort, and friction – all of which may also help reduce infection.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly prior to and after emptying the urine bag.
  • Be careful of tugging on the tubing, twisting, it, or stepping on the tubing when you are walking. It may be helpful for you to clip the tubing to your clothing to avoid this.
  • Always keep the urine bag below your bladder (below your waste) to prevent urine from flowing back into your bladder and causing an infection.
  • Drink plenty of fluid to help keep your urine flowing well.
  • Stock up on spare catheter equipment for emergencies.
  • Call your doctor if you experience any of the following
    • Trouble inserting or cleaning your catheter
    • Urine leakage between catheterizations
    • You notice any type of smell
    • Blood in the urine
    • Skin rash
    • Pain or burning in the urethra, bladder, or lower back
    • Swelling, draining, or redness in your urethra.
    • Any sign of a urinary tract infection, such as a burning sensation, a need to urinate often, a fever, or chills.

Learning how to use a catheter doesn’t have to be daunting. Watch NAFC’s videos on how to self-catheterize for both men and women here.

Self-Catheterization for Women:

 

Self Catheterization for Men:

Our Favorite Avocado Recipe: Guacamole!

Sarah Jenkins

Avocado Guacamole #BladderLeakage

It’s National MS Month and we’re celebrating by whipping up a snack that’s super good for you – especially if you have MS. Avocados are a terrific source of healthy unsaturated fat and are chock full of antioxidants. In fact, a 2013 study from Food and Function found that avocados are so good for you that they may counteract other foods that are, well, not so good for you. Subjects were fed either a plain hamburger patty, or one with avocado. Those who ate the plain burger showed a spike of IL-6 (a protein that is a measure of inflammation) four hours after it was eaten, however those who ate the burger with avocado saw little change in IL-6 over the same 4 hours. Plus, triglyceride levels (which, when elevated, can contribute to diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease) also did not rise after eating the burger with avocado (more than after eating the burger alone), despite the added fat and calories of the avocado.

There are tons of great ways to take advantage of this super food – toss some slices atop a sandwich, throw them in a salad, or, our personal favorite, whip up a delicious side of guacamole. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 large ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • dash of sea salt
  • 1 chopped tomato (seeds removed)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red pepper
  • 1 chopped jalapeño pepper (omit this if you don’t like the heat)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro

In a large bowl, mix the chopped avocado, lime juice cumin, garlic, and salt. Then fold in the tomato, red pepper jalapeño, red onion, and cilantro. Serve with chips, on top of a burger, or as a dip for veggies.

What Is Neurogenic Bladder?

Sarah Jenkins

Neurogenic Bladder

Having a neurological condition presents many challenges, but one that few people likely think about until they are dealing with it is how the condition may affect your ability to use the restroom. Like many organs, the bladder is controlled by nerves that connect to your brain and spinal cord. When these functions are challenged due to a neurological condition, it can cause a person to have a neurogenic bladder.

What is Neurogenic Bladder?

Neurogenic bladder happens when there is a lack of bladder control due to a brain, spinal cord or nerve problem. Typically, the bladder has two functions – storing urine, and removing it from the body. These functions are controlled by communication in the spinal cord and brain. When a person’s nerves, brain or spinal cord become injured, the way they communicate with the bladder can become compromised.

There are two types of neurogenic bladder: the bladder can become overactive (spastic or hyper-reflexive), or under-active (flaccid or hypotonic). With an overactive bladder, patients experience strong and frequent urges to use the bathroom, and sometimes have trouble making it in time, resulting in urinary incontinence. In an under-active bladder, the sphincter muscles may not work correctly and may stay tight when you are trying to empty your bladder, resulting in urinary retention (producing only a small amount of urine) or obstructive bladder (when you are unable to empty your bladder at all). In either case, treatment is available.

What Causes It

Neurogenic bladder can be caused by a number of conditions. Some children are born with neurogenic bladder. Children born with spina bifida (when the fetus’ spine does not completely develop during the first month of pregnancy), sacral agenesis (when lower parts of the spine are missing), or cerebral palsy (a disorder that weakens a person’s ability to control body movement and posture) all may suffer from neurogenic bladder due to their conditions. Other medical conditions that may cause neurogenic bladder are Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injury, stroke, or central nervous system tumors.

Treatment Options

Luckily, there are many treatment options for neurogenic bladder. Treatments vary depending on whether you have overactive bladder or urinary retention. To learn about treatments for these conditions, click through the links below.

Treatments for Overactive Bladder

Treatments for Urinary Retention

A neurogenic bladder doesn’t have to limit your life. Don’t be afraid to explore your options and find a treatment that works for you.

Do you have a neurogenic bladder? Tell us about your experience in the comments below – we’d love to hear about treatment options that have worked for you!

ASK THE EXPERT: Is It Safe To Have Sex With A Vaginal Prolapse?

Sarah Jenkins

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: Is it safe to have sex if you have a vaginal prolapse?

Answer: Yes! A prolapse occurs when a woman’s vaginal wall weakens and collapses, causing the uterus, rectum or bladder to fall into the vagina. However, in most cases, it is completely fine to have sex as long as the woman feels comfortable.  And, having sex when you have a prolapse will not cause any harm to the bladder, rectum or uterus, nor will it make the prolapse worse.

Some women with a prolapsed organ may feel some slight discomfort during sex. Using lubricant can help, as well as ensuring your pelvic floor is completely relaxed before you begin. Trying other positions may also alleviate any pain you are experiencing too. Talk with your partner about what feels best for you.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Contact us!

Donate to NAFC

Is a Pelvic Floor Exerciser For You? Read Our Thoughts And A Review Of Three Popular Products That Claim To Improve Pelvic Floor Strength

Sarah Jenkins

Pelvic floor toner, pelvic floor exerciser

We’ve all heard the age-old advice that doing kegels are good for us.  And for the majority of people, they are. Kegels, when done along side other workout moves, can help tone and strengthen the pelvic floor, making leaks less likely.  And if that doesn’t mean much to you, consider this: experts say that a stronger pelvic floor can help make orgasms more intense, heightening sexual sensation.

The problem many people face is doing kegels correctly. The nature of kegels makes it hard to know if you’re tightening (and releasing!) the right muscles.  That’s where kegel exercisers come in. This new-ish breed of exercise equipment helps you to know exactly how you are performing in the kegel department.  Here’s a breakdown of three devices that are currently on the market:

Elvie

Elvie is a popular device that allows you to literally do your pelvic floor workout anywhere. It’s the smallest kegel tracker available and uses a combination app to track your progress. Elvie is made up of medical-grade silicone and has multiple sensors that measure force and help you see your efforts on screen, so women can visualize their kegel exercises in real-time. Elvie even corrects your lift technique, as 30% of women push down which can lead to damage. There are three levels – beginner, intermediate, and advanced. When you first set your Elvie up, you’ll run through a series of tests to gauge your strength, and then will begin advancing through the different levels as you progress, making the tool fun and challenging.  Each work out only takes 5 minutes, and as you move up in levels you unlock more games and challenges.  Elvie is priced at $199 and can be ordered online through the product’s website.

 

PeriCoach

PeriCoach is an FDA-cleared device that, similar to Elvie, uses sensors to guide you through a pelvic floor training session. Like the Elvie, PeriCoach syncs up to an app on your smartphone.  The app ques the user to squeeze and relax against the PeriCoach, and the contractions of the muscles are detected displaying activity on the smartphone app, showing your progress overtime. The tool also allows you to document your results, which may be useful if you’d like to share them with a doctor or PT. A recent report from PeriCoach showed that the device improved incontinence symptoms in up to 70% of users. PeriCoach is available for $249 at http://www.pericoach.com.

 

Yarlap

Yarlap is another pelvic floor exerciser, but this one does much of the work for you. It’s an FDA cleared pelvic floor stimulator that instructs your pelvic floor muscles to gently contract and relax in order to show you how a Kegel exercise should actually feel.  The difference between Yarlap vs. Elvie and Pericoach is that the Yarlap does the workout for you. It uses a technology called AutoKegel, which perfomrs the Kegel exercises comfortably, correctly, and easily to help you regain muscle tone.  Yarlap consists of a probe, which is inserted into the vagina, and is attached to a display unit, which you can program based on your needs. Yarlap is priced at $299 and can be purchased at http://www.yarlap.com.

A word of caution when considering an electronic device for kegels:  Kegels aren’t for everyone, and for some women who have pelvic floors that are too tight, they can even be harmful.  It’s just as important for the pelvic floor to be able to relax as it is for it to be able to contract, so use these devices with caution, and, preferably, with the guidance of a physical therapist specialized in the pelvic floor.  And, because the pelvic floor connects to many muscles in the body, they shouldn’t be done in isolation. It’s important to strengthen your entire core to ensure that everything is working together, and one muscle isn’t overly taxed during your day-to-day activities.  This is where a trained physical therapist can really help customize your workout.

Have you ever tried a pelvic floor exerciser? What were your results? 

Talking With Your Loved One About Incontinence

Sarah Jenkins

Talking With Your Loved One About Incontinence

Talking about incontinence is never easy. Whether you are the one experiencing it, or someone close to you has been exhibiting symptoms, it is a conversation that most dread. However, sharing this struggle with a loved one is perhaps one of the best things you can do in your path to recovery. With a little advanced planning, a deep breath, and some honesty you’ll be able to get past this and move on to the next (and more productive) phase of this struggle – treatment.

When you’re the one struggling with incontinence.

Believe it or not, you may actually be on the easier end of this conversation. As embarrassing as it may feel to open up to someone about this, if you are ready to do so, you have likely accepted that this has become a problem and are ready to receive support. And who better to provide that support than a trusted friend or loved one? Opening up to someone may not only provide you with the physical help you need, but also lift an emotional weight off your shoulders. You don’t have to suffer through this alone.

When your loved one has incontinence.

If you’ve been noticing that a loved one seems to be having problems with incontinence, it may be time to talk with them about it to see how open they are to treatment. This can sometimes be difficult – it is very likely that the person knows they have a problem, but may be too embarrassed to talk to anyone or do anything about it. Depending on your relationship, it can also be hard for your loved one to admit. For instance, a father who is cared for by his son or daughter may feel too proud to discuss this with his kids.  Start the conversation slowly by asking them about their general health, then move on to some of the signs of incontinence that you’ve noticed. Be prepared – they may get defensive and try to hide the problem. If that happens, try again. Be patient with them and try to be as accepting and understanding as possible. In time, they will likely open up to you once they see that your intentions are good and you are there to support them.

Our last tip? Get some advice from those who have been there and understand. As life changing as it may be, you are not the only one in the world who has ever struggled with this condition. Whether you are looking to reach out to others who are experiencing it, or others who care for an incontinent loved one, there are many people out there who are discussing their problems on message boards and online forums. Check out the NAFC message boards to get some tips on how others have touched on this delicate subject.

Gender Neutral Pelvic Floor Tips

Steve Gregg

Simply stated - the pelvic floor isn’t just a female thing - it is a muscular sling supporting the pelvic and abdominal organs of men and women.  The pelvic floor helps keep us dry.  According to an earlier blog post, more than 50 percent of men over the age of 60 experience bladder control issues due to an enlarged prostate.  

Before I share my best pelvic floor tips for both sexes, we need to agree on the following three truths: strengthening a weak pelvic floor may improve bladder control and confidence, utilizing my tips in conjunction with seeing your healthcare provider will create the most optimal effect, and it’s important to allow yourself to have a bad day here and there.  

My best pelvic floor tips?

  • Start a Bladder or Bowel Diary 

    For a week, keep track of your trips to the bathroom, your leaks and how much and what you are drinking.  Note any trends with fluid intake, time of day and activity level in relation to using the bathroom and your leaks.  Your documentation may help your health care provider order tests, make a more accurate diagnosis or prompt a referral to a specialist.

    But, please consider what you can do with the information.  Are there any trends you are seeing?  Do you have more problems in the morning, afternoon or evening?  Do you need to space out your fluid intake?  You may be able to cue into changes that may positively impact your bladder control and confidence.  

  • Drink more water and consider cutting down on alcohol and caffeine

    Many newly incontinent persons incorrectly assume if there is less water in the system there will be less water to pass.   Cutting out water, or significantly decreasing water consumption, while continuing to consume alcohol and caffeine at normal previous levels may aggravate the bladder and make the leakage problems worse.  Hydration with plain, old water is one of the keys to improved bladder function.  

    And, revisit your diary – it may be possible that alcohol or caffeine may be a trigger to your leakage pattern.  Do you need notice you have more problems with bladder control after a glass or two of coffee or your favorite cocktail?  

  • Kegels

    Yes – we need to talk about this.  Men can do Kegels and should do Kegels to improve bladder control.  Kegels are not just meant for women.  Repetitively performing Kegels will improve pelvic floor muscle function, strength and endurance.  Kegels should be a habit like brushing your teeth. The truth of the matter is - if your pelvic floor muscles are in better space they will be better able to support you and keep you dry.  

    Here are some cues that may help you or your loved one perform a Kegel.   

    • Return to the idea that pelvic floor is a muscular sling.  It supports your abdominal and pelvic organs kind of like a hammock running along the base of pelvis – front to back and side to side.

    • Gently pull the pelvic floor up and in towards your navel as if trying to protect yourself from a blow to the belly.  When you do this – you may feel a gentle tightening of the muscles underneath your navel.  Your tailbone may gently rises up and in.  Continue your normal breath.  Keep in mind, the Kegel, I am recommending is not 100% effort but a gentle tightening of the muscular sling.

    • Continue breathing and hold the Kegel for a few seconds.  Then gradually relax.  Repeat until you’re fatigued or have completed your goal.

That concludes my list of my best pelvic floor tips. What are your best practices?

About the Author, Michelle Herbst:   I am a wife and mother with a passion of helping women live to their fullest potential.  I am a women’s health physical therapist and for nearly decade have helped women with musculoskeletal conditions during their pregnancies, postpartum period and into their golden years.

About the Author, Michelle Herbst:   I am a wife and mother with a passion of helping women live to their fullest potential.  I am a women’s health physical therapist and for nearly decade have helped women with musculoskeletal conditions during their pregnancies, postpartum period and into their golden years.

Why Do I Feel Like I Need To Pee During Sex? 3 Ways To Overcome It.

Sarah Jenkins

pee during sex

If you’ve ever had the feeling that you’re going to wet yourself during the act, you’re not alone. Many women report feeling this sensation – even those that don’t normally experience incontinence. The main reason this typically occurs is the pressure that is put onto the bladder by the penis. Here are 3 ways to help you eliminate the feeling:

  1. Empty your bladder before you have sex. One of the simplest solutions to ensure you aren’t going to have a leak is to use the bathroom prior to doing the deed. This will ensure that even if you feel pressure, your bladder will be empty, greatly reducing the chance of an accident. (This will probably reduce your fears about it too, so you can actually enjoy yourself!)
  2. Try a change in position.  Sometimes, a simple position change can do the trick to eliminate the sensation. Experiment with your partner to see what sexual position feels best for you.
  3. Experiment on your own to see what works best for you.  Some women feel the sensation to pee before having an orgasm. To know if your fears are really a precursor to pleasure, spend some alone time exploring your body with your fingers or a small vibrator. When you feel the sensation to pee, keep going. If it passes, you know that it is just the way your body reacts to the sensation and you’ll be able to better tell in the future between actually having to pee and being on the verge of experiencing an orgasm.

Incorporating pelvic floor exercises into your general workout routine - 3 best moves to add now.

Sarah Jenkins

A guest blog written by Michelle Herbst, PT

 

Pelvic Floor Exercises, or Kegels, is the contraction of the muscles between the pubic bone and tailbone. When a pelvic floor exercise is performed, the person should feel a gentle tightening and lifting sensation in the lower abdomen and perineum. The pelvic floor muscle contraction is complete when the muscles relax and let go of the contraction.

Please keep in mind these tips when performing a pelvic floor exercise to protect yourself from undue harm. One, you must be able to maintain your breath and therefore be able to inhale and exhale while performing a Kegel and avoid breath holding or bearing down. Two, your muscular effort should be around 75 to 80 percent. If you are exerting 100 percent effort, you are likely using the pelvic floor muscles and many other muscle groups as well.

There are many variations and progressions of a Kegel exercise. Here are few ideas to help you incorporate pelvic floor exercises into your daily routines.

Exercise One: Kegel Progression

The pelvic floor muscles are made of two muscle fiber types – fast and slow. Therefore, Kegels can be progressed by varying the hold time and intensity of the muscle contraction. One of my favorite progressions is simply lengthening the hold time followed by a few quick pelvic floor contractions. For example, a Kegel can be held for 5 seconds followed by 5 quick contractions. This Kegel Combo can be done in any position – seated, standing or lying down. It can be done to the beat of music while seated at a stop light or at the end of a cardio or lifting session when you are your mat working the abdominal exercises.

Exercise Two: Kegel with Breath Work

Yoga is the all the rage and you my find your zen when performing a Kegal with breath work. While your yoga instructor is cueing you in inhale and exhale think about what your pelvic floor. Typically, during focused breathing such as in a Yoga Class, there is always slight tension on the pelvic floor. However, you further engage the pelvic floor muscles when you forcibly exhale. During this type of exhalation, the pelvic floor muscles tighten further along with our deep abdominal muscles to push the air up and out of our lungs. Try it. It may transform your yoga practice.

Exercise Three: Kegel with Plank

Plank. It is a much loved and hated exercise. It is a great way to fully engage our core. And, to reap the benefits of the plank - you must focus on the pelvic floor. If your wrists and feet can tolerate a full plank – go for it! If you need to modify, do a half-plank on your knees. Or, try a wall plank by standing with your feet an arms-length away from the wall and placing your hands on the wall.

Here are a few head to toe cues to get you planking.

When in plank, the hands are stacked under the elbows and shoulders. The chin is slightly tucked lengthening the back of the neck. Your shoulder blades are pulled down and back towards the spine. The chest opens and the pelvis is slightly lifted. Your legs are hip width apart. In full plank, your ankles are 90 degrees as you weight bear through the toes. Now, draw your focus to your pelvic floor muscles.  When you tighten the Kegel muscles, you may feel like your tailbone lift up and in. Hold your plank and breathe. Smile too – you just may enjoy how strong you feel.

Michelle Herbst, PT

Michelle Herbst, PT

Bladder Health and Sex

Steve Gregg

Understanding what is normal during sex and what is unusual can be challenging. After all, sex is a very private experience and differs for every person. Generally speaking, there is no reason for your bladder to empty during sex or for you to feel extreme discomfort or experience pain during sex.

As you can guess, the health of your bladder can directly affect your sex life. 

Two common reasons individuals experience pain or discomfort with their bladder during or after sex are: bladder pain syndrome and stress urinary incontinence.

Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS)

Bladder pain syndrome is the continual sensation of pressure or pain on the bladder. This syndrome typically affects women and leaves individuals feeling as if they have to urinate when they don’t have any urine to pass.

Consider making dietary changes and practicing bladder retraining so your bladder begins to hold more urine before experiencing the urge to go.

Relax before engaging in sex to ensure as little stress as possible. Stress can cause flare-ups and trigger discomfort.

Stress Urinary Incontinence

Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI occurs because of weak pelvic floor muscles and/or a deficient urethral sphincter. This weakness can cause the bladder to leak during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, or any body movement that puts pressure on the bladder. If sex is particular jarring, SUI can be affected.

Consider exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and limit caffeine intake. Always empty your bladder before sex.

We hope this peek into how your bladder health can impact sex was helpful. If you have experienced any of the symptoms noted above and haven’t talked to your doctor, it’s time to schedule an appointment. Additionally, we feel it’s important to share your health with your partner if you continue to have sex while experiencing some of these bladder health concerns.

Join us on our forum to talk more and learn how others have dealt with issues like these.  

Four Tips On How To Date When You Have Incontinence

Sarah Jenkins

Having incontinence can put a damper on a lot of activities for many.  Some people are so scared that they will have an accident they won’t leave their home, let alone go out with friends or on dates.  If this sounds like you, you should know that there are things you can do to treat your incontinence, and tricks you can use to survive the dating world.  See below for our top four tips on dating when you have incontinence.

1.     Know Your Options.  Being educated about what treatment options are available to you is half the battle.  Make an appointment with a doctor to talk about your symptoms and find a solution that’s right for you.  Don’t be scared of this step – your doctor can educate you on many types of treatments, ranging from very conservative, non-invasive approaches to more advanced options such as surgery. Once you start treating your incontinence, you’ll gain more confidence in your ability to go out without having to worry about leaks.

2.     Change up your habits.  Avoid indulging in bladder irritating foods when out and about to lessen the risk it will cause an accident.  Things like alcohol and caffeinated items are high on this list. Keeping a bladder diary for a couple of weeks can help you identify your triggers so that you know what you need to avoid in social situations.

3.     Plan ahead.  Know where the closest restrooms are so that if you need to head there in a hurry you won’t lose time searching around.  It can also be helpful to have an extra change of clothes on hand just in case an accident does happen.  Keep a spare in your bag or car for emergencies.

4.     Be open with those you love.  Thinking about being intimate when you have incontinence can be nerve-wracking, but opening up to your partner can help ease the tension and take a weight off your shoulders.  Talk to them before you’re in a situation to have sex so they know what to expect.  If they get hung up on it, chances are they aren’t worth your time anyway.  However, you’ll likely find that being open and honest with them will help you both relax a bit and will create an even more trusting and caring relationship.


Don’t let incontinence limit your social life.  Learning how to treat and manage it, and knowing your personal triggers, will give you the confidence to get out there and start living a more connected – and full – life.  





How To Talk About Incontinence With Your Loved One

Sarah Jenkins

Talking about incontinence is never easy.  Whether you are the one experiencing it, or someone close to you has been exhibiting symptoms, it is a conversation that most dread.  However, sharing this struggle with a loved one is perhaps one of the best things you can do in your path to recovery.  With a little advanced planning, a deep breath, and some honesty you’ll be able to get past this and move on to the next (and more productive) phase of this struggle – treatment.

When you’re the one struggling with incontinence.

Believe it or not, you may actually be on the easier end of this conversation.  As embarrassing as it may feel to open up to someone about this, if you are ready to do so, you have likely accepted that this has become a problem and are ready to receive support.  And who better to provide that support than a trusted friend or loved one?  Opening up to someone may not only provide you with the physical help you need, but also lift an emotional weight off your shoulders.  You don’t have to suffer through this alone.

When your loved one has incontinence.

If you’ve been noticing that a loved one seems to be having problems with incontinence, it may be time to talk with them about it to see how open they are to treatment.  This can sometimes be difficult – it is very likely that the person knows they have a problem, but may be too embarrassed to talk to anyone or do anything about it.  Depending on your relationship, it can also be hard for your loved one to admit.  For instance, a father who is cared for by his son or daughter may feel too proud to discuss this with his kids.  Start the conversation slowly by asking them about their general health, then move on to some of the signs of incontinence that you’ve noticed. Be prepared – they may get defensive and try to hide the problem.  If that happens, try again.  Be patient with them and try to be as accepting and understanding as possible. In time, they will likely open up to you once they see that your intentions are good and you are there to support them.

Our last tip?  Get some advice from those who have been there and understand.  As life changing as it may be, you are not the only one in the world who has ever struggled with this condition.  Whether you are looking to reach out to others who are experiencing it, or others who care for an incontinent loved one, there are many people out there who are discussing their problems on message boards and online forums.  Check out the NAFC message boards to get some tips on how others have touched on this delicate subject.

Tips to keep incontinence from interfering with your sex life

Sarah Jenkins

If you struggle with incontinence and have concerns about leaking during sex, you're not alone. The American Foundation for Urologic Disease (AFUD) reports that one in three women with stress incontinence avoids sex due to fears of leaking during intercourse or orgasm. But incontinence during sex doesn't have to be an issue.  Below are some tips to manage your incontinence and reclaim your sex life.

  • Be Prepared. Believe it or not, your behavior prior to sex can have a big impact on your chances of leaking during the act.  Here are a few tips to help you avoid an uncomfortable situation:
    • Avoid bladder irritating foods or drinks a couple of hours before bedtime.  Not sure what your food and drink triggers are? There are some common ones, but you can also track your own habits for a week or so to determine what foods and drink you.
    • Limiting your fluids prior to having sex.
    • Practice "double voiding" prior to sex. This is when you go to the bathroom, wait a few minutes, and then go again to empty any residual urine that may still be present in the bladder.
    • Use protective bedding so that you are covered in case an accident does happen.
  • Try a new position. You may find that a new position creates less stress on your bladder muscles, making leakage less likely. 
  • Strengthen up down there. Regular pelvic floor workouts can do wonders for women who experience incontinence. An added bonus?  Studies have shown that by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles you may also experience stronger orgasms and find sex more satisfying.
  • Talk about it. While this is an uncomfortable discussion to have, the mere act of telling your partner about your condition may relieve some of the stress associated with it. 

 

Talk to your Doctor.

If you've tried the steps above to no avail, consider talking to your doctor about your condition. Incontinence is not a normal part of aging and many things can be done to correct the situation. Your doctor can tell you about options that will best fit your needs.  Need help finding a physician?  Click here.

Incontinence During Sex - It Happens To Men Too

Sarah Jenkins

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 7 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime (only skin cancer has a higher rate).  And, while many men will go on to survive prostate cancer, the side effects of treatment can be difficult to deal with for many.

A common treatment for prostate cancer is a radical prostatectomy, or the complete removal of the prostate.  This is generally considered a good approach especially if the cancer is contained within the prostate gland and has not spread.  However, one side effect of this procedure is often incontinence.

Stress urinary incontinence, the type of incontinence that happens when you place pressure on the bladder, is common for men who have had their prostate removed or are undergoing other treatments for prostate cancer.  Treatment can sometimes weaken the bladder muscles, causing leakage when a man sneezes, coughs, exercises, or even during sex.  This can be extremely embarrassing for men, and can be discouraging when going through the healing process of having a prostatectomy.

The good news is that many men regain full control of their bladder with time after a prostatectomy.  However, in the meantime, here are some tips that may help you avoid some awkward situations in the bedroom:

·      Try to watch your fluid intake in the hours leading up to sex.

·      Avoid consuming bladder irritating food and drinks, such as caffeine, chocolate, or alcohol.

·      Prior to sex, completely empty your bladder.

·      Keep a thick towel nearby in case of any accidents

While this problem can be an embarrassing one, keep in mind that many men deal with this in the months after prostate cancer treatment and with time, this condition should improve.  If you still experience problems a few months after your treatment, talk to your urologist about treatments for incontinence.  He or she can help you navigate the many options available to you and find one that fits best with your needs.