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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.


Ask The Expert: What's The Best Adult Absorbent Product On The Market?

Sarah Jenkins

 NAFC Ask The Expert

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: When I go to the grocery store, I'm faced with a wall of different incontinence products. How do I choose what's right for me? What’s the best adult absorbent product on the market?

Answer:  This is a really tough question, and to be honest, there’s no one answer. Finding an absorbent product that’s right for you takes patients and depends on your specific circumstances.  We always recommend paying attention to what we call the “3 F’s”, Form, Fit, and Function. First and foremost, it’s important to look for a good fit (you don’t want anything too big or too small, as both of those factors can cause leaks). Next, you’ll want to think about function and how you need the product to work for – do you leak during the day or at night? When you do leak, is it just a little bit, or a lot? There are different products for all of these specific problems so you’ll want to consider what you struggle with the most and pay attention to the packaging and description of the products your choosing.  Finally, think about form, which relates directly to your lifestyle. Are you very active? Absorbent briefs or pads may work best. Are you confined to a bed or chair? You may want to look for something easier to remove. 

All of these factors play an important part in choosing an absorbent product that works for you. As for specific brands, there are a lot out there, even beyond what you may find in a big box store.  Do your homework and look online too. Online shopping for absorbents has it’s own benefits, like greater selection, and being able to shop privately in your own home.  Many online retailers also have consultants on hand to help you weed through the massive selection of products based on your needs.

Good luck, and remember to keep trying. It may take a several tries to find “the one” but once you do, the peace of mind to know that you’re protected, and comfortable, will be worth the effort.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Have a question you'd like answered? Contact us!

Patient Perspective: The Shame Is Real

Sarah Jenkins

 Many people talk about the physical struggle with insomnia, but the emotional aspect is just as tough to deal with.

When you hear about incontinence in the news, you always hear about the physical hardships – the leaking, needing to bring an extra change of clothes everywhere, keeping things clean. But unless you live with this condition, the one thing you don’t truly know about is the shame that accompanies it. Sure, everyone knows that it’s embarrassing to pee your pants as an adult, especially in public. But until you’ve actually been in that horror stricken moment, you really have no idea. 

Those of us who know this know that incontinence is more than just the occasional wet pants. It’s the hiding from your spouse so they don’t see that you wet yourself again. It’s the avoiding every social situation where you don’t know for sure a bathroom will be nearby. It’s feeling bad about yourself because you have this problem that you can’t control, even though it feels like you should be able to. It’s feeling like you’re the only adult with this problem. It’s all of that, plus the physical part too.

The truth is the emotional challenges of dealing with incontinence can be worse than the actual physical parts of the condition. But learning to manage it successfully can go a long way in easing the pain and embarrassment of the problem. NAFC is a great resource to those of us who live with incontinence. Take the time to explore the site and the many tools and tips they have to offer – it’s helped me a great deal and if you look hard enough you may just find the one tip or trick that takes you from embarrassment to freedom.

Bradley M., Nashville, TN

The Best Bathroom Locator Apps

Sarah Jenkins

 The Best Bathroom Finder Apps

We’ve all been there – you’re out and about and the sudden urge to go to the bathroom strikes out of nowhere. You race to find a bathroom, praying to make it in time (and praying that the conditions of the facility are acceptable). This scenario is no fun at all. But luckily, there are some clever apps out there that make finding a bathroom a little easier, and give you more confidence when traveling, running errands, or socializing with friends and family. Here’s our roundup of the 4 best Bathroom Finders available now. All are available on IOS and Android platforms.

Sit Or Squat:

Sit Or Squat was developed by Charmin to help you find a public restroom near you, wherever you may be (even traveling outside the US). Boasting 100,000 listings, this app has you covered, and is easy and free to use. Sit or Squat allows you to view bathrooms in list or map view, and lets you filter locations for things like ‘handicap accessible’, or ‘baby changing table’. It also lets you rate bathrooms by cleanliness (a  “Sit” rating indicates a clean bathroom while a “Squat” rating indicates a bathroom with less desirable conditions.) All in all, this is a great app with an easy to use interface.

Download the app: Google Play, iTunes

Got To Go Restroom Finder

The Got TO Go Restroom Finder App is free to download and operates only in North America, and lists restrooms as a map or list view.  Users are able to filter views by which locations are open near them, and the type of location it is (gas station, restaurant, retail store, or government/public building). You can also see cleanliness ratings, rate the bathroom yourself, or add new bathrooms to the app.

Download the app: Google Play, iTunes

Bathroom Scout

Bathroom Scout has over 1,800,000 bathrooms listed worldwide, including public toilets, or restrooms in restaurants and other facilities. The service offers turn by turn directions to bathrooms near you, the ability to see a Google Street View of the location (if images are available), and the ability to rate the condition of the bathrooms.  The free version contains ads, but the paid pro version also offers a satellite view, no ads, and a waterfall sound for when you need a bit of sound cover when using a public restroom.

Download the app: Google Play, iTunes


Flush operates worldwide with 190,000 restrooms stored in it’s free app. Like others listed here, you can see restrooms by both map and list view and get directions to nearby toilets. Flush also lets you filter bathrooms by “disabled access, “requires key”, and “requires fee”.  Another great feature is that the app works even when you don’t have an internet connection, allowing you to find a bathroom in an emergency even when cell service is spotty.

Download the app: Google Play, iTunes

Keep in mind that these apps are only updated when users add new information, such as new locations, information, or ratings. So they likely wont have every available toilet listed, and you may not know all the details on cleanliness or other features if users have not rated it.  But, in a pinch, it can be nice to have one of these apps handy to help you out. And, if you add your own finds in places that you visit frequently, it can serve as a helpful tool for you day-to-day when you’re out and about in your community.

Do you know of any other helpful apps you think might benefit our readers? Share them in the comments below!

Your Guide To Personal Lubricants

Sarah Jenkins

Your Guide To Personal Lubricants - Facebook.png

Sex is a great way to connect with your partner. But as our bodies change, certain conditions can make sex more challenging than it used to be.  For those with pelvic floor issues, it’s common to also see a reduction in natural lubrication. And as women enter menopause, the decrease in estrogen levels can reduce the amount of moisture available, and can make the vaginal wall thinner and less elastic. And even if you aren’t yet experiencing menopause, common occurrences such as stress, lack of sleep, or other medical conditions can often lead to vaginal dryness.

Vaginal dryness can cause discomfort on it’s own, but it can wreak havoc on your sex life, making it painful and uncomfortable. Lucky for us there are a plethora of choices for personal lubrication that will have you back on track in no time. If you experience any dryness during sex, try using lubrication to help remove the unwanted friction and make sex more enjoyable for both you and your partner. 

Popular Types Of Personal Lubricants

Water-based lubricants  

This is the most natural feeling lubricant and one of the most poplar. Note that a water-based lubricant will dry out faster than other forms and you may need to reapply it during sex.

Silicone-based lubricants 

Silicone lubricants are a bit slicker than water-based ones, and they may be used in water. They also last a bit longer than water-based lubricants so you won’t need to apply them as often. Avoid using silicone-based lubricants with silicone sex toys though, as it can deteriorate softer silicone sex toys due to how the molecules interact with other silicone products.

Hybrid lubricants  

Hybrids are a blend of water-based and silicone-based lubricants. They provide the feeling usually associated with a water-based product, but they won’t dry out quite as quickly. Note: because these are typically 90% water-based, they won’t work well in water.

Oil-based lubricants 

Oil-based lubricants – including petroleum jelly – are the least commonly used. Coconut or VitE oil are good daily options to use for general vaginal dryness. However, oil-based lubricants should never be used with condoms, latex, diaphragms, or rubber, since the oil will weaken these materials and may cause them to be ineffective.

Everyone’s preference is different and what may work great for one person may not be the best choice for you. Don’t be afraid to try out different types of lube to find one that you like best. 

Dear Readers:  NAFC provides free education and resources to over a million people each year. We are a small non-profit that operates with all the expenses of a large organization - website maintenance and upkeep, servers, staff, and the development of continued educational tools and programs. Please help us continue our mission by making a donation. Even a small gift can make a difference and will help ensure we are able to keep this FREE resource alive and help more people learn to live a Life Without Leaks. PLEASE DONATE TODAY!

The Best Sex Positions If You Have Incontinence Or Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Sarah Jenkins

Best Sex Positions For Incontinence or POP - Facebook.png

We all want a satisfying sex life.  But sometimes, medical conditions can get in the way of that. If you struggle with incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, sex can often be a source of great anxiety. Fear of leakage, odors, or even pain can sabotage intimacy and leave you feeling undesirable or anxious when it comes to intercourse. There are many things you can do to prevent incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse from interfering with your sex life. However one of the simplest things you might try changing is your sexual position.

Your sexual position can make big difference when it comes to easing anxiety about leakage or pain and enjoying sex. Certain positions can put lots of pressure on the bladder, making it more likely that you may have an episode of stress incontinence. And if you have pelvic organ prolapse, some positions may feel more uncomfortable than others.  Here are a few sexual positions you may want to try, depending on your condition.

Sex Positions If You Suffer From Bladder Leakage: 

Just as you may experience bladder leakage when you sneeze, laugh, or workout, putting extra pressure on your bladder or urethra during sex can also cause incontinent episodes. This shouldn’t hinder your sex life. While it may make you feel anxious, there are ways to avoid bladder leaks during intercourse. Women who are concerned about leakage during sex should avoid positions that put extra pressure on these areas.

 Avoid:  The missionary position, or all fours.

Try:  Lying on your back with some pillows underneath your lower back. This position raises your pelvis and helps to reposition your bladder, reducing the extra pressure.

Sex Positions If You Suffer From Pelvic Organ Prolapse:

Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) is a condition in which your pelvic floor is weakened to the point that one of your pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, or rectum) “falls” into your vagina. Many women with POPs report feeling a heaviness or bulging feeling in their vagina, or a feeling that they are sitting on top of a ball. In severe cases, the pelvic organ may protrude past the vaginal opening. 

While this condition may leave you feeling uncomfortable and anxious about sex, rest assured that sex is still completely possible and will not affect the POP at all. Many women report having great sex even with a POP and, since it is extremely difficult for non-medical professionals to detect a prolapse, your partner probably doesn’t even know it’s there.

However, certain sexual positions can create discomfort in women with POP. Here are some positions to avoid, and some to try:

Avoid: Standing, “Cowgirl” or “Reverse Cowgirl” (where the woman is sitting on top). Gravity is not on your side here, and sitting or standing upright will only create more pressure on your pelvic floor during sex.

Try:  Modified Missionary Position: Woman is lying on her back with a pillow under her pelvis and her partner is on top.

 From behind: Woman is lying flat on her stomach or in supported kneeling position with her partner entering the vagina from behind.  (Note: Avoid this position if you have a rectal POP.)

Above all, be sure to communicate with your partner about what feels good and what doesn’t. Sex should be enjoyable for both of you so if something feels uncomfortable or doesn’t make you feel good, speak up.  And, if you’re still having difficulty finding a position that works for you, talk with a pelvic floor physical therapist. They’ll help create a custom treatment plan to strengthen up your pelvic floor muscles, and can suggest other tips that may make sex more enjoyable to you.

If you are worried about leaking during sex, you may also want to practice kegels. Kegels can help strengthen your pelvic floor so that you have more control over bladder leakage. Want to learn how to perfect your kegel? Read our how-to guide!

Dear Readers:  NAFC provides free education and resources to over a million people each year. We are a small non-profit that operates with all the expenses of a large organization - website maintenance and upkeep, servers, staff, and the development of continued educational tools and programs. Please help us continue our mission by making a donation. Even a small gift can make a difference and will help ensure we are able to keep this FREE resource alive and help more people learn to live a Life Without Leaks. PLEASE DONATE TODAY!

Do You Leak When You Sneeze? You May Be Eligible To Participate In A New Study About SUI!

Sarah Jenkins


Stress Urinary Incontinence, or SUI, is when leakage occurs due to stress placed on the bladder. SUI is common with activities such as laughing, coughing, sneezing and exercising and affects many women worldwide.


A new study; (The ASTRID (Assessing Enobosarm for Stress Urinary Incontinence Disorder), or “The Leak Study”) is testing an investigational medication for women who experience the symptoms of Stress Urinary Incontinence.  If eligible to participate, you’ll be  part of a research study for a potential oral medication to treat SUI. You’ll also receive study-related care and investigational medication from a local doctor at no cost.

You may qualify if you:

  • Are a woman between 18 and 80 years of age
  • Are postmenopausal or have undergone a medically induced or surgical menopause (hysterectomy)
  • Have not had surgical intervention for Stress Urinary Incontinence (such as a vaginal sling procedure)
  • Have had stress urinary incontinence for at least the past 6 months

A final decision on whether this research study might be suitable for you will be made after you speak with the local research team.

How To Relax Your Pelvic Floor

Sarah Jenkins

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What Is The Pelvic Floor And Why Should I Relax It?

The pelvic floor is a web of muscles that acts as a sling, supporting your bladder, bowel and uterus. It is responsible for helping you control your bladder and bowel, and also plays a role in sexual intercourse. Many women experience pelvic floor issues, such as incontinence, as a result of childbirth, obesity, chronic constipation, or other strains put on the pelvic floor. Often, a weakening of the pelvic floor causes these issues, but did you know that having a pelvic floor that is too tense can also create problems? Incontinence, trouble emptying your bladder, and even pain during sex can be signs of a pelvic floor that is too tense.

Luckily, pelvic floor tension is a problem that you can do something about. Below are some simple exercises that may help you to relax your pelvic floor muscles. These can all be done in your home, discretely, and with no equipment necessary.

Note: It is always recommended to consult a pelvic floor physical therapist prior to performing exercises related to the pelvic floor. A physical therapist can provide you with a proper diagnosis and put you on custom treatment plan just for you! Find a physical therapist in your area here!

Diaphragmatic Breathing For Pelvic Floor Relaxation:

The diaphragm works in synergy with the pelvic floor and helps to promote muscle relaxation. This is important for decreasing pain and promoting optimal muscle function.

  1. Place one hand on your chest and another hand on your belly, just below your rib cage.
  2. Take a deep breath in to the count of three, and then exhale to the count of four.
  3. When you inhale, your pelvic floor relaxes, and as you exhale, your pelvic floor returns to its resting state.
  4. Practice this breathing for 5-10 minutes each day.

Note: You’ll know that you are using your diaphragm correctly if you feel the hand on your belly rise and fall.

Pelvic Girdle Stretches For Pelvic Floor Relaxation

All of the following positions are great for practicing diaphragmatic breathing!

Happy Baby Pose:

 Happy Baby Pose

Happy Baby Pose

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Open your knees wider than your chest and bring them up towards your armpits. You may hold your legs with your arms behind your knees or at your ankles, but try to keep your ankles over your knees.
  3. You can either hold this position or gently rock on your back from side to side
 Child's Pose

Child's Pose

Child’s Pose:

  1. Start on your hands and knees.
  2. Spread your knees wide apart while keeping your big toes touching.
  3. Gently bow forward, moving your torso downwards, between your thighs. Keep your arms stretched out long and in front of you.

Adductor Stretching:

  1. Lie on your back with the soles of your feet together and knees out to the sides.
  2. This should be a relaxing position. If you feel a pulling along your inner thighs or in your pubic bones, place pillows under your knees for support.
 Aductor Stretch

Aductor Stretch

 Piriformis Stretch

Piriformis Stretch

Piriformis Stretching:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  2. Place your left ankle on your right knee, like a figure four.
  3. Pull your right thigh toward your chest to feel a stretch on the outside of your left hip.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.

Dear Readers:  NAFC provides free education and resources to over a million people each year. We are a small non-profit that operates with all the expenses of a large organization - website maintenance and upkeep, servers, staff, and the development of continued educational tools and programs. Please help us continue our mission by making a donation. Even a small gift can make a difference and will help ensure we are able to keep this FREE resource alive and help more people learn to live a Life Without Leaks. PLEASE DONATE TODAY!

Patient Perspective: How Acknowledging My Pelvic Floor Changed My Life

Sarah Jenkins

Pelvic Floor Strengthening

I’ve experienced bladder leaks for about 5 years. After I had my second daughter, I started noticing leakage here and there. I always assumed it would go away, but it never did. I spent the first year attributing it all to childbirth, and let’s be honest, I didn’t really have the time to worry about myself much with a newborn baby. But, after my daughter’s first year, what I thought was a problem that would clear up on it’s own continued, and I began to take more notice. The leaks were more frequent, not less, and I started to feel ashamed about it. I’d never heard any of my friends talking about this side effect of motherhood – why was it happening to me?

I finally decided to visit my OB/Gyn to see what he recommended and he referred me to a Physical Therapist who solely focuses on the pelvic floor (yes! there really is such a thing!). The PT did a thorough evaluation and said the cause of my problem was due to a weakened pelvic floor that most likely occurred during childbirth.

I’ve never been what you would call athletic. I have a gym membership but don’t visit all that often. I sit at work all day, and get most of my exercise running around after my two girls. And God knows I could stand to lose a bit more of the baby weight.  So when my PT said that she was going to put me on a workout program to get things back in shape, I was a bit worried. But her workout was low intensity – lots of walking to get my weight down (which would help put less pressure on my bladder and pelvic floor) and simple exercises that would strengthen not just my pelvic floor, but my core muscles too.

After 3 months of doing the workout I had lost about 8 pounds and my stomach and glut muscles were noticeably more toned. I also was noticing much fewer leaks and was able to control my bladder much better than before. And after 6 months of performing the workout, the leaks had stopped all together.

I can’t tell you what a difference this simple workout routine has made in my life – not only do I feel stronger and more in control, but it’s given me more confidence in the ability to change my body both in look and in function. I’m so proud of myself and my only regret is that I didn’t do something sooner. Ladies – if you’re experiencing bladder leaks, visit a PT and get on a workout program! It will literally change your life. It did for me!

Kimberly V., Englewood, CO

Ask The Expert: Should Men Do Kegels?

Sarah Jenkins

Ask The Expert Mens Kegels

Question: I hear about kegels for women all the time, but what about men? Can kegels benefit men too?

Expert Answer: Absolutely!  Kegels are an important part of a woman’s workout routine to prevent or manage bladder leaks, but they are just as important for men. In men, kegels can help with fecal incontinence, overactive bladder, urinary retention, erectile functioning and even orgasms.  Interested in seeing the benefits for yourself? Here’s how to do them:

How To Do Kegels For Men

There are two types of kegel exercises that you can do to strengthen and tone your pelvic floor muscles.

Long Contractions.  

Long Contractions work on the supportive strength of the muscles. To perform a long kegel contraction, tighten your pelvic muscles and hold for 5 seconds. This may be difficult at first – don’t worry if you can’t hold the contraction for the full five seconds. With practice you’ll be able to work up to this.

Overtime, work your way up to 10 seconds per contraction. Be sure to rest for 10 seconds in between each contraction – knowing how to relax your muscle is as important as the contraction.

Short Contractions.  

Short contractions work the fast twitch muscles that work quickly to stop the flow of urine and prevent leaks. To perform a short contraction, tighten your muscles quickly, then release, and repeat.

When Should I Perform Them?

Like any muscle, you don’t want to do too much too soon. Aim for 5 reps of both short and long contractions, 3x per day on your first day. As you gain more confidence and strength, work your way up to 10 reps, 3x per day of each.

Continue practicing kegels and you should see improvements in 3-6 months. And, if you find that you need some help with kegels, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. They will be able to provide you with more personal instruction, which may include biofeedback therapy.

Good luck!

What Is The Pelvic Floor? (And Why Should I Care?)

Sarah Jenkins

What Is The Pelvic Floor - Facebook.png

If you’ve never thought much about your pelvic floor, you’re not alone. Most people don’t give this section of the body much consideration until it’s too late – they become incontinent, or worse, suffer a pelvic organ prolapse as a result of pregnancy, obesity or chronic constipation. But the pelvic floor is one of the most important muscles in the body, and ignoring it can have potentially great consequences later in life.


Let’s begin with a little bit of anatomy. The pelvic floor is a basket of muscles that supports some pretty major organs – your bladder, rectum and uterus in women, and your bladder, rectum and prostate in men, to be exact.  The muscles stretch across the pubic area from front to back and from side to side. They are typically very firm and thick, but are also flexible and are able to move up and down (kind of like a trampoline).

These muscles are very important in supporting the organs listed above, and are essential in maintaining control over our bladder and bowel. The pelvic floor muscles also play a large role in sexual function for men and women, and provide support for the baby during pregnancy. 

Over the course of our life, many things can compromise the stability of the pelvic floor, leading to things like incontinence, or pelvic organ prolapse. Obesity, childbirth, chronic coughing, chronic constipation, or other things that put strain on the pelvic floor can cause it to weaken. And with age there is often a weakening of the connective tissues of the pelvic floor.

What You Can Do To Protect The Pelvic Floor

The good news is that much like the other muscles in the body, the pelvic floor can be trained and strengthened over time.  By learning to strengthen the pelvic floor, you may be able to prevent or even eliminate symptoms of incontinence or prolapse.

Read: 4 Moves to Help You Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Before You Get Pregnant

There are many exercises you can do to strengthen the pelvic floor. Kegels are great at isolating the pelvic floor muscles, but because the pelvic floor connects to many of the muscles that create your “core” (your diaphragm, transversus abdonminis, and multifidus), you also need to incorporate workouts that build strength in those areas as well. And remember – it’s not just about tightening. We need to ensure that our muscles are neither too tight, nor too loose. Learning how to relax the pelvic floor is just as important as learning how to strengthen it, since a pelvic floor that is too tight can create weakness and cause problems too. Like any other muscle in the body, we are looking for our muscles to be strong and flexible. 

Symptoms Of Pelvic Floor Tension

  • Constipation
  • Painful intercourse
  • Pelvic Pain
  • Inability to empty your bladder completely
  • Painful urination

If you experience these symptoms, we recommend that you see a pelvic floor physical therapist prior to starting any strengthening program. Performing strengthening exercises on a pelvic floor that is already too tight can create additional problems, or make any existing issues worse.

Symptoms Of Pelvic Floor Weakness

  • Urinary incontinence
  • Urinary urgency/frequency
  • Stool and gas incontinence
  • Pelvic organ prolapse, or the dropping of your organs through your vagina
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Pelvic girdle pain

Learning how to strengthen, and relax the pelvic muscles can help with pelvic floor weakness.

Want tips on how to improve your pelvic floor strength? Check out these great resources:

Incorporating Pelvic Floor Exercises Into Your General Workout Routine – 3 Best Moves To Add Now.

It’s All About The Base

Ask The Expert: Can Pelvic Floor Exercises Really Help My OAB Symptoms?

Men And Kegels – The Ultimate Guide

Note: If you are experiencing symptoms of either pelvic floor weakness or tension, we strongly advise you to see a physical therapist specialized in pelvic floor therapy. A physical therapist can help provide you with a diagnosis and put you on a custom treatment program specific to your needs.

Dear Readers:  NAFC provides free education and resources to over a million people each year. We are a small non-profit that operates with all the expenses of a large organization - website maintenance and upkeep, servers, staff, and the development of continued educational tools and programs. Please help us continue our mission by making a donation. Even a small gift can make a difference and will help ensure we are able to keep this FREE resource alive and help more people learn to live a Life Without Leaks. PLEASE DONATE TODAY!

Why A Healthy Pelvic Floor Is Important + A FREE Giveaway To help You Strengthen It & Stop Bladder Leaks For Good!

Sarah Jenkins

Carin Giveaway - Facebook.png

Why The Pelvic Floor Is Important

If you follow along with NAFC on a regular basis, you know how much importance we place on maintaining a strong and healthy pelvic floor. It’s a vital part of maintaining continence, alleviating symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, and even reducing lower back pain. And don’t get us started on the benefits a strong pelvic floor has on sexual intercourse. It’s no wonder we focus so much on this magic group of muscles!

The pelvic floor is essentially a web of muscles that acts kind of like a basket holding up some pretty vital organs: the bladder, bowel and uterus.  When these muscles become weakened – from things like childbirth, heavy lifting, chronic coughing; basically anything that puts a lot of pressure on it - it can cause a loss of bladder or bowel control and can increase the risk of prolapse.  Weak pelvic floor muscles can also put strain on other muscles (the pelvic floor is connected to many other muscles in the body!) causing them to work overtime to make up for the lack of support in the pelvic floor. This imbalance can cause pain in other areas of the body too (lower back pain or hip pain for instance).

For these reasons, it’s important to make sure you’re incorporating pelvic floor and core exercises into your workouts each day. And don’t worry – the workouts don’t have to be long or strenuous. But just like every other muscle in the body, they need attention in order to maintain the strength needed to function properly. 

So, how do you get a strong pelvic floor? Some simple, daily exercises are all you need. We’ve teamed up with the folks at Carin to help you get started. Read below for information to how NAFC readers can get a free Carin Wearable Set

What is Carin?

Carin’s smart underwear is a new way to not only measure and manage leaks, but also to improve your pelvic floor strength so that you can get on with your life and eliminate those pesky leaks all together. It’s the only wearable pelvic floor exerciser on the market – painless, noninvasive, and high-tech. 

 Carin Smart Underwear Set

Carin Smart Underwear Set

 Carin Sensor

Carin Sensor

What’s Included in the Carin Smart Underwear Set?

Carin comes complete with a unique pair of highly absorbent underwear that can manage any leaks you may have. The set also comes with a sensor that snaps in the underwear, detects your body movement and monitors leakage. Finally, the Carin app helps you track your leaks and also sets you up on a daily workout plan to help you get stronger and manage leaks.

 Carin App

Carin App

How Does It Work?

The Carin exercise program contains two parts: a weekly measuring routine and a daily exercise routine. The Carin smart underwear is worn for at least 24 hrs. with the sensor snapped in. This is the ‘measuring day’. The sensor will detect the body’s movements and track any leakage that might occur. Based on leakage, the app will then begin to recommend specific exercise routines to help you strengthen your pelvic floor in an effort to reduce leaks. There is a weekly plan of video exercises ready for you to do for 10 minutes each day. 

After the second time of wearing the smart underwear, an intelligent algorithm calculates progress made within the Carin app. The app shows the impact of exercise by counting the reduction of leaks.  80% of women using Carin have reported seeing progress between 20% to 100% in as little as 4 weeks!

See Carin In Action

Want a sneak peak of what to expect with Carin? Watch the video below!

Try Carin For Free!

For a limited time, NAFC visitors can get a FREE set of Carin Smart Underwear to try at home yourself.  The first 100 respondents will receive a FREE set of Carin Smart Underwear in exchange for feedback on the product. Click below for more details on how you can get your FREE set of Carin Smart Underwear, valued at $180.  This is seriously a great deal and a great way to start improving your pelvic floor strength. Order your FREE set of Carin Smart Underwear today!

Note: As always, NAFC recommends that anyone experiencing a pelvic floor issue see a trained Physical Therapist prior to beginning any exercise program. A Physical Therapist can provide you with a proper diagnosis and set you up on a treatment plan specific to your condition. Need help finding a PT in your area? Click here.

How To Start A Walking Group

Sarah Jenkins


Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of any health plan. It not only makes you look and feel better, but it can ward off other conditions such as diabetes, and incontinence. But, staying active can sometimes be easier said than done. Sometimes you just don’t feel like getting to the gym or working out on your own. That’s why we love the idea of starting your own walking group. A walking group is great because members can help keep you accountable for your activity, motivate you to succeed and push you beyond your normal limits. Plus, working out is always more fun if you have a buddy or a community to support you. So lace up your sneakers and check out our tips for getting your own group together!

5 Tips For Starting A Walking Group

1. Round up your squad!

Start by pulling together friends, family members, and co-workers who would like to join the group. If you need more members, try putting up a flyer in your gym, senior center, or library. 

2. Organize a kick-off meeting.  

Work together to decide on the goals of the group, and set some guidelines.  Here are some important things to consider:

  • When will you meet?
  • How often?
  • Will you walk when the weather is colder/raining/snowing?
  • Will you divide into smaller groups or all walk together?
  • How will you contact each other? Through email? A phone tree?

3. Set some goals.

Encourage members to set and share some personal goals to help keep everyone motivated. You may also choose to set a group goal, like walking x number of days a year, completing x number of steps, etc. Goals are a great way to make the group feel more cohesive and helps everyone keep at it (even when they may not feel like it!)

4. Start walking.

Walking is such a great workout because it’s free and easy to do. Set your date for your first walk and remind people to dress appropriately and for the weather.

5. Stay motivated.

Celebrate your successes! Have periodic dinners or coffee dates when you reach milestones as a group and encourage each other to keep going. Invite fitness speakers to talk with your group and provide extra motivation! And make sure to mix it up! Explore new routes or trails periodically to keep it interesting.

If the idea of starting a new group doesn’t appeal to you, try joining one that already exists. Many gyms or YMCA’s offer these types of groups and they are easy to join.

Walking can be a great way to stay healthy at any age and forming a community to do it makes it fun.  Start your walking group today!

Have any other tips for starting a walking group? Leave them in the comments below!

NAFC  is a small non-profit that operates with all the expenses of a large organization. Please help us continue our mission by making a donation. Even a small gift can make a difference and will help ensure we are able to keep this FREE resource alive and help more people learn to live a Life Without Leaks. PLEASE DONATE TODAY!

Don't Quit Exercising Because Of Urinary Incontinence

Sarah Jenkins

working out with incontinence

Living with incontinence can pose many challenges. The condition can cause you to limit the life you once had - foregoing social events, distancing yourself from family and friends, and even missing days of work. So, it comes as no surprise that your workouts may also be affected. In fact, studies have shown that up to 20% of women have reported quitting their physical activities due to incontinence. Experiencing leakage when running or doing certain types of exercise is very common, but it’s not normal. You shouldn’t have to live with incontinence, and the good news is you don’t have to.

Why do I leak urine during my workouts?

Bladder leakage during your workout is due to a condition called Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI).  SUI is incontinence that occurs when you have a weak pelvic floor or sphincter muscle, and increased pressure is placed on your bladder. This can happen with things like sneezing, coughing, and, yes, certain forms of working out.

SUI occurs commonly with childbirth, but other conditions can also contribute to the condition. Chronic coughing, surgical procedures, menopause, and obesity can also contribute to SUI.

How To Manage Bladder Leakage During Exercise

The tips listed below can help you manage and treat the issue of bladder leaks. As always, when thinking about treatment options, it’s best to consult a trained physical therapist that can give you a proper examination. 

1. Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor.         

A weak pelvic floor can make you more susceptible to SUI. To learn how to strengthen it, make an appointment with a physical therapist who will teach you not only how to correctly perform a kegel, but also how to strengthen your whole core. You see, while the pelvic floor is important, it’s only one part of the equation. Your core muscles, hips, thighs, and glutes all play a part of maintaining proper alignment so it’s important to include these muscles in your daily workouts too.

Your PT will also teach you how to properly relax your pelvic floor. Pelvic floor muscles that are too tight can also be an issue with SUI, so you must learn to relax these muscles as well.

2.  Use a Pessary.

SUI often occurs in women who have experienced Pelvic Organ Prolapse. A pessary can be a great tool for this condition, especially when working out, since it helps hold everything in place, resulting in less pressure on your bladder.

3. Use Protection.

It goes without saying that if you’re experiencing leaks and want to continue to work out, you may need a little extra help. There are several absorbent products available that are designed specifically for working out. Experiment with different styles and fits to see what works for you.

4. Go Easy On The Fluids.

You should make sure you stay properly hydrated, but try limiting the amount of caffeinated beverages you’re drinking, especially before your workout. Caffeine can irritate the bladder making accidents more likely.

5. Watch What You Eat.

Similar to caffeine, certain foods can cause bladder irritation in some people. Spicy or acidic foods are especially common bladder irritants and should be avoided.

6. Empty Your Bladder Before Starting Your Workout.

Make sure to use the bathroom just before any strenuous workout, like running to avoid extra strain on your bladder.

7. Try Retraining Your Bladder

Just like any muscle in the body, your bladder can be trained. Try scheduling your bathroom visits in intervals and slowly work up to longer stretches of time.

8. Wear Black Pants.

This is a simple trick, but can help you prevent (or at least cover up) any embarrassing leaks. The color black can help hide any leaks. Loose fitting clothing can also help hide any extra protection that you may be using to prevent leakage.

As you can see, there are several options for managing urine leakage while exercising. Try incorporating some of the above tips and don’t let incontinence keep you from getting your work out! 

Have you tried any of the tips above, or do you have others you’d like to share? Tell us about them in the comments below!

NAFC  is a small non-profit that operates with all the expenses of a large organization. Please help us continue our mission by making a donation. Even a small gift can make a difference and will help ensure we are able to keep this FREE resource alive and help more people learn to live a Life Without Leaks. PLEASE DONATE TODAY!

Bladder Control Loss And Travel

Sarah Jenkins


For the more than 25 million Americans with bladder control loss, leaving their comfort zone can be a daunting thought. Even short trips can cause anxiety, let alone long road trips or air travel. It doesn’t have to be this way. With preparation and the right know-how, the anxious and uncomfortable feelings can be eliminated.

Imagine forgoing a golfing trip with your buddies or missing your favorite niece’s graduation because you will be in a situation where there may not be restrooms in sight. This is what many people with urinary incontinence and overactive bladder do. There are steps to take before your trip so that you are prepared for these situations.

As with most things, preparation is key. Think about how you will be traveling and make a plan for what to do in certain situations. If you’re traveling by airplane, get an aisle seat. And be sure to go to the bathroom before the drink cart heads down the aisle. If you’re traveling by car, you can use online tools and apps to find rest stops along your driving routes. Not every car on a passenger train has a restroom; perhaps you need to consider upgrading to business class or ask the reservation clerk for a seat closest to the toilet. And public toilets are often lacking supplies. Always have hand sanitizer, wipes, and pocket tissue handy. Which brings us to our second tip...

Pack management tools. Absorbent products are lifesavers when traveling and can help prevent embarrassing leaks. Make sure to choose products that fit your needs – look at the form, fi and function of a product when evaluating your options. Visit the absorbent product section of NAFC’s website for more information.

You should also pay attention to what you are eating and drinking. Diet can have a profound effect on your voiding patterns. Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. These are known bladder irritants. And make sure you drink plenty of water. Many people who have bladder control problems reduce the amount of liquids they drink in the hope that they will need to urinate less often. While consuming less water may mean fewer trips to the bathroom, the smaller amount of urine may be more highly concentrated and, thus, irritating to the bladder. Highly concentrated (dark yellow, strong-smelling) urine may cause you to go to the bathroom more frequently, and it encourages growth of bacteria.

Finally, consider talking to your doctor about medication to control your bladder. Be aware that you will need to begin to take these medications weeks before your trip for them to begin to take effect when you need them to. It is also helpful to get acclimated to the effects of a new medication, such as dry mouth or constipation, so that you can find ways to manage these side effects before going out of town.

Do not let your bladder control your life. If you are experiencing bladder control loss and you haven’t spoken to your doctor or healthcare provider about it you need to do so now. Help is available for everyone. More and more new treatments are successfully used for all types of incontinence. Improvement begins with you and continues through active participation in your treatment program.

NAFC  is a small non-profit that operates with all the expenses of a large organization. Please help us continue our mission by making a donation. Even a small gift can make a difference and will help ensure we are able to keep this FREE resource alive and help more people learn to live a Life Without Leaks. PLEASE DONATE TODAY!

Ask The Expert: How Do I Talk With My Husband About His Incontinence?

Sarah Jenkins


Question:  My husband of 47 years has recently started experiencing incontinent episodes. He’s a very proud man and doesn’t want to admit them to me, but it’s starting to become a problem due to the increased laundry, smell and his overall depressed attitude about it. How can I get him to open up and talk with me about it?



This is a common problem in marriages, especially pertaining to men. Most men don’t want to admit they have a problem with bladder control. They feel ashamed, and hate the idea of wearing protection. He may never come out and admit it to you on his own, so here are some tips to broach the subject with him:

1. Make him feel comfortable.

As you’ve already figured out, incontinence is a very uncomfortable subject for your husband. Make him feel at ease and approach him about his bladder leakage in a way that is not threatening or accusatory. Find some neutral territory and talk to him at a time when he feels good. Don’t try to broach this subject right after he’s had an accident.  That will only make him feel more embarrassed and ashamed.

2. Show him that you are understanding and want to help him with his bladder leakage.

Before you talk with him, do a little research on incontinence and learn what may be causing the issue. Did he just have prostate surgery? Is there something else that has changed recently that could be contributing to his accidents? Read about the causes, and the many different treatment options and management strategies for bladder leakage. Show him that there are ways to manage the condition and that he doesn’t have to just live with it. Let him know that you care about him and want to help. Show him that you are a team so that he doesn’t feel so alone.

3. Encourage him to seek treatment for his incontinence.

Incontinence can often be a symptom of an underlying condition. Let your husband know that you want him to talk with a doctor to make sure that there is nothing serious going on, and to help him get the problem under control. He may be resistant to speaking with his doctor, but press on (slowly). The sooner he confronts his incontinence with a professional, the sooner he can begin treatment and start feeling like himself again. (Find a specialist in your area with our Specialist Locator.)

4. Be his advocate for care.

Because your husband is so embarrassed about his incontinence, you may need to be his voice when seeking out treatment options. Help him research incontinence so that you both can learn more about it. Write out questions that he can bring with him to the doctors office to ensure he doesn’t forget anything important. Be sure to voice any concerns over treatment options. And help him stay the course on his path to treatment.

5. Introduce him to the NAFC message boards.

The NAFC message boards are a great place for your husband to explore and ask questions – anonymously! There are many people on the boards who may be experiencing the same things he is who he can talk to. Plus, with so many people dealing with incontinence in the same spot, there are lots of learnings and tips he may be able to pull from to help his own situation. (As an aside, the message boards may also be a great spot for you to do some research too.  Talk with other caregivers to get some ideas. Or ask other men living with incontinence how you might be able to best approach your husband about the topic.)

It’s never easy talking about incontinence to a loved one – especially men. But by being a caring and supportive spouse, you’ll show your husband that you are in his corner, and that you are there to help. Good luck!

NAFC  is a small non-profit that operates with all the expenses of a large organization. Please help us continue our mission by making a donation. Even a small gift can make a difference and will help ensure we are able to keep this FREE resource alive and help more people learn to live a Life Without Leaks. PLEASE DONATE TODAY!

Patient Perspective: Why I Finally Decided To Get Help

Sarah Jenkins

mother daughter incontinence

I was 12 years old when I used to watch my Mother hide her incontinence.  We’d be out somewhere and she’d commonly run off toward the bathroom, her spare pants hidden in her purse. Or, we’d be at home, washing dishes together after dinner and she would stop, mid-sentence, to race to the toilet, always returning in a different pair of pants. I knew better not to ask her about it – it was one of those things that she just wouldn’t open up about, and I could tell she didn’t want anyone else to know – especially my father.

Years later, when I became a mother and started experiencing leaks myself I began my own charade of pretending everything was normal. I, like my mother, didn’t want anyone to know I couldn’t control my bladder. “Who would understand?”, I thought. “It’s just a part of becoming older and a result of having children.” After all, that’s what I was always conditioned to believe.  And so, I lived most of my years as a mother hiding my problem from my family, my friends, and my doctor.

It wasn’t until I became a Grandmother that the reality hit me. I was staying with my daughter, helping her care for her new baby girl, my first grandchild. I watched as she, a brand new mother still recovering from childbirth struggled with bladder control issues in those first few days. I saw how she tried to hide her accidents from me, and for the first time, I felt truly ashamed – not because I suffered from incontinence, but because my pride had kept me from opening up to others about my problem, and in a way, continued this needless cycle of denial and hiding. I decided at that moment that it would stop – for my daughter, my granddaughter and for myself.  I spoke openly with my daughter that day about my struggles with incontinence throughout my life, and how I couldn’t bear to see her waste her precious time with her new little girl worrying about something that now seemed so trivial. I let her know that I knew this was a common problem, but was certain there were things that could be done for her if it didn’t improve in the course of her post-partum recovery. And, I made a commitment, to her and to myself, that I would seek treatment too. I was done hiding, and done being ashamed.

We as women have come so far over the course of my life – rising in ranks in the corporate world, making an immense impact to society, accomplishing amazing things. Why do we continue to let something like incontinence make us feel so ashamed that we don’t ever even seek a solution to the problem?

I wish my mother would have opened up with me about incontinence. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone and isolated all of these years. But, I’m grateful that I’m finally breaking the cycle of shame and doing something positive for the two women that I love most in the world. At least it’s a start. I hope, if you’re reading this, you’ll decide to join me.

Sandy L., Morristown, NJ

Want to share your own story? Enter it here! You may remain anonymous and your story may help inspire others dealing with incontinence issues to seek help! 

NAFC  is a small non-profit that operates with all the expenses of a large organization. Please help us continue our mission by making a donation. Even a small gift can make a difference and will help ensure we are able to keep this FREE resource alive and help more people learn to live a Life Without Leaks. PLEASE DONATE TODAY!

Ask The Expert: How Do I Avoid Leaks When Visiting Loved Ones?

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: I suffer from incontinence and will be visiting my daughter for 3 weeks this holiday season. I’m terrified I’ll have an accident at her house. Do you have any precautions I can take to avoid leaks and the accompanying embarrassment?

Answer: This is a common concern and is a great topic to discuss around the holidays. There are many things you can do to avoid leaks, as well as a few things you can have at the ready in case a leak does happen at your loved one’s home.  

As always, preparation is key, and will help give you some peace of mind knowing that you have the proper products in place to prevent leaks. Be sure to bring plenty of supplies with you: absorbent products for day and night, extra changes of clothes (black is a great color choice since it goes with everything and hides leaks well), and extra medication, if you’re on it. After all, when traveling during the winter season, anything is possible and delayed or canceled flights can leave you unprepared – pack extras so that you have enough to last you for a few extra days just in case. If you have trouble at night, bring your own waterproof pad (or two) to protect the bedding. Don’t forget about any other supplies you may need – skin protectants or cleansers, detergents for doing a load of laundry, disposable plastic bags to hold used or wet products, and an odor neutralizing spray to hide any unwanted odors.

An extra bag can help you transport and hide your supplies, as well as serve as a place to store used products or clothes that you can dispose of when convenient for you.  And if you’re a woman, upgrade your purse to a tote bag that can hold extra supplies you may need when you’re out and about.

Finally, the holidays can be a time of indulgence, so watch what you’re eating and drinking. Skip the coffee and alcohol, limit spicy foods and sweets, and avoid any foods that you know irritate your bladder. 

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Have a question you'd like answered? Contact us!

What Exactly Does NAFC Do?....A Lot.

Sarah Jenkins

What Exactly Does NAFC Do-.png

As a visitor to this blog and website, you probably know that NAFC exists to help those with incontinence. In fact, our mission is pretty clear:  The National Association For Continence is a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with incontinence, voiding dysfunction, and related pelvic floor disorders. Our purpose is to be the leading source for public education and advocacy about the causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatments, and management alternatives for incontinence. 

Simply put, we don’t think anyone should have to live with bladder leaks. NAFC strives to de-stigmatize incontinence, promote preventative measures, and motivate individuals to seek treatment.

But have you ever wondered how we do all this? Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the ways we’re working every day to support our mission:

We’re providing high-quality information that you can trust.

NAFC creates and publishes (with the help of qualified healthcare professionals) information about all types of bladder and bowel health conditions and makes it all available through our website, NAFC.org, for anyone and everyone to learn from. We offer free brochures, tools to help you manage your condition, regularly updated stories and blogs from patients living with incontinence and experts on the condition, and even a way to find a doctor near you. We offer Healthcare Professionals tools for their office, free courses they can use in their community to educate patients, and up to date information about incontinence and the incontinence market. Above all else, we want people to be educated about their condition and to know the options available to them.

We’re raising awareness.  

Our high quality content means nothing if we’re not able to get it to the people who need us. We are a small organization, with even smaller budgets. But despite that, we’ve managed to reach quite a large number of people with our message. In the past 12 months, we’ve had nearly 1 million people visit our website. Our efforts in social media and online advertising have had over 10 million impressions.  On a monthly basis we send our newsletter, filled with tips, management tools, and news on incontinence to over 10,000 people. And our awareness campaign this past year has helped show millions that a “Life Without Leaks” is a very real possibility.

We’re providing community.  

NAFC’s message boards are filled with nearly 2,000 active users and were visited 30,000 times in the past year.  Our message boards have become a safe haven for those looking for advice from others going through similar things, or for those who just need to talk to someone who understands. Our goal when creating the message boards was to build an open, safe place where people can speak freely about their condition with no judgment. And judging by the number of people participating, we think we’ve done that. NAFC also maintains an active social media presence on Facebook and Twitter to help foster community and interact with those looking for information on incontinence.

We’re advocates for quality standards.

Did you know that not all absorbent products are created equally? NAFC has long been an advocate for quality standards across adult absorbent products to ensure products are made with safe materials, are created with multiple sizing options and absorbency levels in mind, and are effective in keeping moisture away from the skin to prevent irritation.  We’ve published standards for disposable absorbent products and have created a Task Force that had been working to make it easier for states to adopt these standards. Learn more about our efforts here.

NAFC works tirelessly everyday to bring you quality information and to provide a community where you can learn and connect with others. And we’re fighting every day to ensure you have quality products to help you manage your condition. But we need your help to continue. All of our hard work also comes with expenses: website and server upkeep and maintenance, the development of new educational content, tools and programs, and the staff to support all of our advocacy and awareness efforts.

Will you help us this season by making a donation to NAFC? Our continued success depends on you. And with over 25 million people in the US living with incontinence, we still have a long way to go. If NAFC has made even a small difference in your life, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today.

We’re proud to serve you and to be bringing awareness to this condition that so often causes shame, embarrassment, and a reduced quality of life. Help us continue by making a donation today!

Want To Make A Difference For NAFC This Holiday Season? Here's How To Give Back.

Sarah Jenkins


Another year will soon come to a close and we hope that we’ve made enough of a difference in helping you managing your incontinence that you’ll consider giving something back. NAFC is a small non-profit with all the expenses of a large organization: website upkeep and maintenance, staff, and the development of continued educational tools and programs for those touched by incontinence. While only a small amount of those who visit our website or read this blog typically give to NAFC, if everyone donated even a small amount, it would be enough to help us reach our goals and continue our mission of raising awareness of and de-stigmatizing. If you’d like to give back to us in some way, but aren’t sure how, read the suggestions below:

  1. Make A Donation. The most straightforward way to help us is to make a donation to NAFC. Your donation will go toward developing new programs and tools, keeping our information up to date, and advocating for quality standards for absorbent products.  Donate today
  2. Start Your Own Fundraiser To Raise Money For NAFC On Facebook. We know it’s not always possible to give, but you can still make a difference by creating your own fundraiser for NAFC on Facebook. It’s easy! Here’s how to do it!
  3. Make A Difference When You Shop For Holiday Gifts! Support our cause during the holiday season by shopping through AmazonSmile or GoodShop and selecting the National Association For Continence as your non-profit recipient. (Tip: You can do this all year long – not just during the holiday season!)
  4.  Become A Professional Member Of NAFC If You’re A Healthcare Professional. Membership comes with great benefits including a new member kit, invitations to participate in round table discussions, opportunities to be featured on our blog or in our newsletter, and the knowledge that you are helping support an organization that is much needed by your patients. Learn more about membership and join us today!  
  5. Buy Your Whole Office A Corporate Membership! Looking for the perfect holiday gift for your office? Become a Corporate Member of NAFC! Corporate members receive all the benefits of a normal membership, at a discounted rate. Learn more about our Corporate Membership offering here and sign up today!

We’re proud to support those with incontinence through education, community and advocacy.  We hope that this year you’ll include us in your giving plans so that we can continue our mission of helping everyone learn to live a Life Without Leaks!

The True Impact Of Incontinence

Sarah Jenkins

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A look at how incontinence Affects physical, mental and financial well-being.

Maria, a 52-year old mother of 3, first began experiencing bladder leaks in her mid-forties. It was an occasional problem, only occurring once or twice a month, and something she didn’t really think much about. “I just thought it was a part of growing older,” she said. However, as she began to edge closer to 50, the episodes began happening more frequently. “I’d be out walking the dog and have a sudden urge to use the restroom – and I found I couldn’t hold it in”, she said. As the leaks continued to increase, she began limiting her activities. “I tried to stay close to home just in case the urge came to go. When I’d go out, I located the nearest bathroom right away in case I needed to make a run for it.”  She didn’t reach out to her doctor, or even tell her family about her problem for a long time. “I was just so embarrassed. I’m a grown woman – I didn’t want people to know I peed my pants.” 

Maria’s not alone. One in 4 women over the age of 35 is affected by incontinence. (1) It can happen in men, but it occurs twice as much in women, due to things like pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.(2) Unfortunately, many of these people do not seek help for their condition– most people wait an average of 6 years before even talking with a doctor. (3) This is due, in large part, to embarrassment about having bladder leaks, and the misconception that incontinence is just a part of getting older.

But incontinence is not just a part of getting older. Yes, it’s common, but it shouldn’t be thought of as normal, especially considering the many available treatment options for patients. In fact, ignoring incontinence can be detrimental to your physical, mental and financial well being. Let’s take a look at how incontinence affects these three areas of life.

The Physical Impact Of Incontinence

While many people see incontinence as embarrassing, until you’ve experienced it yourself you may not realize the true physical impact that it can have on your life. Of course there’s the obvious problem of having to change clothes or bedding often, or running to the bathroom, but incontinence can impact your physical health in other ways too. Many people with regular incontinence suffer from skin infections, due to over-exposure to moisture. Incontinence dermatitis (also known as diaper rash) can occur frequently and bacterial or fungal infections can also develop easily when skin comes into contact with bacteria from waste products repeatedly.

Additionally, many people report reducing their physical activity when they have incontinence. For those who were once active, activities such as running or other high impact exercises are often avoided or stopped completely once the practice may lead to unexpected and involuntary leakage of urine.  In fact, over 20% of women have quit their physical activities due to urinary incontinence. (4) In a large Australian study, it was found that more than33.3% of women between the ages of 45 and 50 reported that they avoid athletic activities fearing an incontinence episode during exercise. This can be dangerous, as it can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle, which may contribute to other diseases, such as osteoporosis, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. (5)

Finally, incontinence presents a much greater risk for falls and fractures, especially in older adults. One study showed that weekly or more frequent urge incontinence independently increased the risk of falls by 26% and the risk of fractures by 34% in older adult women. (6) It is hypothesized that this occurs because older adults have a reduced capacity to divide their attention. Thus, an elderly person who is focused on needing to get to the restroom quickly may become unaware of the potential hazards that lie in their path to get to the bathroom, or may become inattentive to controlling their posture or body movements, which increases the risk of falling. Given that the CDC has reported that falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults, it is important to take measures to reduce anything that may contribute to them, including incontinence. (7)

The Mental Impact of Incontinence

While the physical impact of incontinence is substantial, the effect of incontinence on a person’s mental health can be truly devastating.  Many people with incontinence carry an emotional burden of shame and embarrassment in addition to the physical disruption on their lives. They learn to hide their problem from close friends and family, and even significant others for years. Most wait at least 6 years before even discussing the problem with a doctor. (3). They shy away from social activities for fear they will have an accident in public, and stop doing things they once took joy in. Slowly, their isolation and shame may lead to depression and anxiety. Even after accounting for other medical conditions and demographic differences, incontinence negatively impacts a person’s quality of life. (8-13). In fact, research has found an association between incontinence and declining mental health and an increased risk of the onset of psychological distress and depressive symptoms. (14) In one study, women with severe urinary incontinence had an 80% greater possibility of presenting deep depression while women with mild incontinence had a 40% greater possibility of presenting depression. (15) Another study showed when urinary incontinence is severe enough, the incidence of a stress disorder increased by 4 times. (16).  

And the impact doesn’t stop there – sexual functioning also takes a hit. One study reported that 43% of participants with urinary incontinence felt that their urinary disorder had adversely affected sexual relations. (17) Premenopausal women with urinary incontinence have reported lower scores of desire, stimulation, lubrication of the vagina, orgasm and satisfaction. (18) Add to that the anxiety that many women feel that they may have an incontinent episode during sex, and it’s easy to see why many women with incontinence may avoid the act all together.

Unfortunately, the mental impact of incontinence doesn’t just affect the patient.  The physical and psychological toll of those caring for an incontinent loved one is also significant. Many caregivers have reported problems with role change, sleeping, finances, intimacy and social isolation (19). It’s been shown that incontinence adds to the psychological and physical burden of caregivers and can be a risk factor for nursing home placement, hospitalization and death. (14) In fact, urinary incontinence has been reported to be one of the leading causes of nursing home admissions. (20) Given the extreme guilt that often accompanies this decision, it’s no surprise that incontinence negatively affects caregivers as well as patients.

The Financial Impact of Incontinence.

As if the cost to a person’s mental and physical health weren’t enough, the economic impact that incontinence has also weighs heavily on patients and caregivers. Incontinence presents a significant financial burden to the individual and to society. In the US, the cost of bladder incontinence among adults was estimated at $19.5 billion in 2000. (14) And on an individual level, women with severe urinary incontinence pay $900 annually for incontinence care. (21) The expenses include costs for things like absorbent products, medications, doctor visits, and dry cleaning or laundry.  Unfortunately, incontinence gets worse with time if left untreated and costs only go up as we age. Women over 65 tend to spend more than twice as much on incontinence (7.6 billion annually) than younger women (3.6 billion annually).  (22)

And it’s not just the direct costs that contribute to the financial stress of incontinence. Up to 23% of women take time off work due to incontinence. (23) The combination of lost work, plus the funds needed to actually treat the condition can really add up to a financial drain on the pocketbook.

What Can Be Done.

While incontinence may not be a life-threatening condition, it’s clear that the physical, mental and financial burdens that are placed on a person with the condition severely affect overall quality of life. But, the good news is that there is a wealth of treatment options available to patients, which can ease many of these burdens. However, in order to get the treatment that so many need, we must first start by thinking about this condition differently. Doctors need to have a forthcoming discussion with their patients about incontinence, and patients need to be willing to speak up about the condition with their doctors. And, as a community, we all need to be more open about incontinence to erase the stigma that has held so closely to it for so many years. If you live with this condition, or know someone who does, we urge you to speak up, educate yourself, and get treatment. Because living with a condition that so severely impacts you physically, mentally and financially is no way to live.

As for Maria, she finally took action against her problem. After seeking help from her doctor – a full 7 years after she started experiencing leaks – she was put on a plan that included medication and physical therapy to address her bladder leakage. “I feel like I have a new lease on life. I wasted so many years hiding and feeling ashamed for something that I now see was so easily treatable. I just wish I had sought help sooner.”

Explore the resource at NAFC.org to learn how you can fight incontinence and learn to Live A Life Without Leaks.


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