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Are you like me? Do you live with someone who is unable to deal with your incontinence? I am sad to say that I do, and while it hasn’t always been easy, I’m starting to find ways to help my husband accept my problem.
We’ve always been a carefree couple. Even in our early days we’d drop everything at a moments notice if a cheap flight to an exotic destination came along. We’d host impromptu parties with friends, go on vacations with other couples, and push ourselves to try new things like running marathons or participating in intense group workouts or races.
And while we are still very much in love, and still like to be adventurous, in recent years, I’ve held back, because I suffer from incontinence.
I started noticing leaks when I was in my early 40’s. At first they were small, and didn’t happen very often. I brushed them off and still tried to do all the things we always had, without feeling the need to share this new development with my husband.
But after a while, the small leaks turned to bigger ones, and they were happening more and more frequently. I found that I couldn’t go out of the house without packing a spare change of clothes. I no longer wanted to just hop on a 5-hour flight to somewhere exotic where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find a bathroom, or worse, have an accident on the plane.
I had to tell my husband what was happening, and while he was supportive, he didn’t understand why I couldn’t “just hold it”. He started to grow resentful as I declined more and more invitations, and we soon began to have fights about it, often leaving me feeling ashamed and embarrassed because of my condition.
I decided that I needed to take matters into my own hands and help my husband understand. We started doing research together online and learned more about my condition, what causes it, and ways to better manage it. And, I’ve talked with my doctor about ways to treat my incontinence so that I can do more of the things I love.
It hasn’t been easy, and my husband still sometimes gets frustrated at my hesitation to do some of the things we used to, but educating ourselves, together, was one of the best things we could have done to get back on track. It’s helped us both learn that this is not my fault, and that there are ways to overcome it. And, despite his frustration, I’m glad my husband is pushing me to get treatment instead of hiding behind my condition. I’m confident that with my doctor’s help, I’ll soon be able to get back to many of the things that we used to enjoy, and can’t wait to feel like my old self again.
Sylvie R., Rockport, Massachusetts
As you may already know, incontinence is really common. Approximately 15 million American women deal with urinary incontinence. And about 24% of women over 40 have experienced fecal incontinence at least once in the past year, too.
But, just because incontinence is common doesn’t take away the embarrassment. The sheer thought of an unexpected leak is stressful. Plus, research shows that stress and incontinence are closely intertwined. But do stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues cause incontinence? Or does incontinence negatively impact our mental health? With 1 in 5 American adults, or 43.8 million people, experiencing mental health issues every year, you just might want to stick around to find out.
The Impact of Stress on the Bladder
Have you ever said “I’m so scared, I might pee myself?” Well, it turns out there’s real science behind that expression. When you’re really afraid or anxious, your body goes into fight or flight mode. And it’s thought that the adrenaline pumping through you triggers your need to pee.
So, there’s definitely a link between what’s going on in your brain (fear, anxiety, etc) and what might be coming out of your bladder. Anxiety and stress can cause you to urinate more frequently, too.
The Impact of Stress on the GI Tract
If you haven’t heard the phrase “I was so scared, I almost peed myself,” maybe you have heard “I was so scared, I almost pooped myself.” Your ability to hold in urine and feces is controlled by the same muscles so it makes sense that they’d behave the same way under stress. It’s true that stress and anxiety can cause diarrhea so we know that our bowels are impacted by stress.
Looking at studies of IBS patients, too, the connection between bowel health and mental health is clear. About 60% of IBS patients have generalized anxiety disorder. Another 20% have depression. That’s a pretty significant overlap.
Incontinence and Mental Health
So, back to the chicken and egg question. Both anxiety and depression have been found in many patients with incontinence. But was the incontinence caused by the mental health problems or did the mental health problems cause the incontinence?
It turns out it’s a two way street when it comes to anxiety and urinary incontinence. Anxiety and incontinence interact and exacerbate each other. And, anxiety is a risk factor for developing incontinence.
The same appears to be true with other mental health issues, like depression, which is also a risk factor for developing incontinence. Several studies have linked depression to urinary incontinence in women especially. And, people with pelvic floor disorders (incontinence is one type of pelvic floor disorder) are three times more likely to experience depression than the general population.
Anxiety even rears its head when you start talking about overactive bladder. According to one study, 48% of patients with overactive bladder exhibit anxiety symptoms. Plus, according to the same study, about 24% of OAB patients have moderate to severe anxiety.
While anxiety and incontinence don’t have to go together, it’s easy to see how incontinence can cause anxiety -- maybe even more anxiety than you started with.
What You Can Do
It’s easy for someone on the outside to say just don’t worry, right? However, this is definitely one of those things that’s easier said than done. If you have significant anxiety or depression, please give your doctor a call. For the more common daily stressors in all of our lives, there are things you can do to help you worry less and hopefully decrease leaks too.
One option is to use absorbent products, so that the only person that knows you leaked is you. NAFC recently conducted a study that found that those who felt positively about wearing absorbent products said it was because it made them feel more protected and in control. And who doesn’t want to feel more in control? Plus, Lily Bird can help take the stress out of going to the store by delivering pads and disposable underwear straight to your door.
Don’t forget about trying pilates to doing Kegels or making dietary changes to see if that helps with incontinence or stress, too. Whether your stress is a symptom or a cause, getting it under control can help no matter what situation you’re in.
~Written by Lily Bird, a proud Trusted Partner of NAFC
About Lily Bird
Lily Bird is for all of us women with leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas. We squeeze when we sneeze and drip when we jump. And we think it's high time we stop saying sorry for the spritz.
If you’re ready to tell your bladder who’s boss, Lily Bird has you covered with pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas delivered right to your door. Start your free trial today.
Kidney stones affect 1 in 11 people in the US. Kidney stones can (literally) be a real pain. But what are they? What causes them? And how can they be prevented? Read on to find out.
What are kidney stones?
The kidneys are part of your urinary tract system. Their job is to control the fluid and chemical levels in the body by cleaning the blood, then creating urine from the waste and the excess fluid in the body. Sometimes, the urine in your body contains a high level of minerals and salts that form hard deposits inside of your kidneys. These are kidney stones. Kidney stones may start out small, but can grow quite large in some cases.
Kidney stones sometimes don’t have any symptoms, and remain inside the kidneys without issue. Or, they may travel through the urinary tract to the bladder, where they exit the body through urine. Passing a kidney stone can sometimes take several weeks and may be quite painful. If the stone is too large, it may become lodged in the urinary tract, creating even more problems.
Types of Kidney Stones.
There are four types of kidney stones. These include:
Calcium stones. These are the most common type of kidney stones. Certain diets or metabolic conditions or medications may contribute to an increase in calcium in urine.
Struvite stones. These types of stones form in response to an infection, like a bladder infection. Although rare, these stones can be more common in people prone to getting urinary tract infections.
Uric acid stones. These happen to people who drink too little fluids or who eat a high protein diet. Certain conditions can also lead to uric acid stones, such as type 2 diabetes, or gout.
Cystine stones. A hereditary condition causing the kidneys to produce too much of certain amino acids.
Do Kidney Stones Cause Incontinence?
Kidneys stones can sometimes interfere with urination, since they travel down the tubes leading from the kidneys to the bladder. This can create blockages, which may make it difficult to pass urine. Kidney stones may also make you feel like you need to urinate more often. You may feel an urgent need to use the bathroom. Sometimes this can lead to leaks if you are unable to make it to a bathroom in time.
What Are The Symptoms Of Kidney Stones?
They symptoms of a kidney stone may vary depending on the location and size of the stone. Some stones are so small they may not cause any discomfort at all. (Although even small stones can cause a lot of pain.) Or, the symptoms may change as the stone shifts and moves from the kidney to the bladder. Typically symptoms of kidney stones may include:
Pain in the back or sides, the groin, or the lower abdomen.
Pain when urinating
Red, pink or brown tinted urine. This happens when blood enters the urine.
Cloudy or bad smelling urine
Needing to urinate often, or feeling an intense need to empty your bladder.
Feeling a burning sensation when urinating
Nausea and vomiting
Passing small amounts of urine
Are Kidney Stones Painful?
Kidney stones can range from being uncomfortable, to extremely painful, and the amount of pain, and location of that pain can change as the stone moves through your urinary tract.
Why are kidney stones so painful? It makes sense when you think about it. The stone is trying to pass through the tube from the kidney to the bladder, which is extremely small. As the stone enters the tube, it may block urine, causing it to build up and create pressure and pain. In addition, the ureter (the tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder) contracts as the stone moves through it, pushing it closer to the bladder to get rid of it, which also causes pain.
You may feel this pain in the back or sides, where the kidneys are located or, as the stone moves closer to the bladder, you may feel it in your abdomen or groin, and urination may feel painful, much like when you have a urinary tract infection.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
There is no one cause of kidney stones, but certain diets or conditions may make you more prone to developing them. Having a family history of kidney stones, not drinking enough fluid, being overweight, and certain diets can all make you more susceptible to getting kidney stones. Additionally, if you have conditions such as diabetes, gout, or gastrointestinal diseases (diarrhea, constipation, IBS), you may be at a greater risk for developing kidney stones.
How Do You Treat Kidney Stones?
Waiting for the kidney stone to pass is the most common form of treatment. This can take from a few days to a few weeks. Luckily, over-the-counter pain medications can help relieve most of the discomfort you may feel.
However, if you’re in unbearable pain, or the stone becomes lodged for too long, surgery to remove the stone may be required.
How Do You Prevent Kidney Stones?
Some people are more prone to develop kidney stones, based on heredity or their own history of stones. People who have had kidney stones in the past are more likely to develop another in the future.
However, there are some things that you can do to help prevent those hard mineral deposits from forming in the first place.
Stay Hydrated. Ensure you’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated. By maintain a good amount of fluid in the body, the kidney is better able to filter calcium, making it less likely that a build up will occur.
Watch Your Diet. If you suffer from frequent kidney stones, avoid high protein diets, and reduce your sugar, and especially your salt consumption. Watch your calcium intake too to ensure you’re not overdoing it (pay attention to vitamins and supplements, especially if you’re already eating calcium rich foods).
Reduce Your Weight. Losing weight can reduce your risk for kidney stones. This is in part because reducing your weight may lead to a healthier diet, with less salty food or animal fats. Incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables into your diet and practice regular exercise to reduce the weight.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out.
In today’s world, it seems that everyone is stressed out. And what’s more, many people wear it as a badge of honor. Being “so busy” makes us feel productive and in charge. And everyone else is the same, so why should we feel any different?
But stress has a lot of negative effects that can build up over time. It affects not only your mood and behavior, but it can lead to real medical issues if left untreated.
If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, here are 5 ways to take some of the pressure off when it all starts to feel a bit too much.
Five Ways To Calm Yourself Down
Be More Mindful.
Yes, mindfulness is all the rage these days, but for good reason. Mindfulness has a host of health benefits, but among other things, it can help you control stress. When you practice mindfulness, you’re removing yourself from thinking about a stressful situation, reminding yourself to be grateful for the good things happening in your life, and shifts your perspective so that you can see things more clearly. All this works to calm your body and mind down and reduce stress.
Sometimes, the simple act of taking some time to breathe deeply can make a huge difference? Why? It cues your body to slow down and relax. Taking deep belly breaths can help ease stress and anxiety, slow your heartbeat and stabilize your blood pressure. Its also that mindfulness trick again. Focusing on your breath helps to ground you and bring your attention to one thing, giving your mind a break and your body a chance to recoup. It’s easy to do, and you don’t have to do it for very long to reap the benefits. Just find a quiet spot, and slowly breathe in deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand. Then slowly let the air pass back through your nose as you exhale. Even a few minutes can be helpful in a pinch, but regular practice of this (daily for 10-20 minutes) can do wonders.
Taking breaks not only help calm you down when you’re stressed, they can help make you more productive. When we work non-stop without taking a break, we’re pushing our brain to the limit, naturally tiring it out after a while, just like any other muscle in the body. But evidence suggests that taking periodic breaks helps to recharge our brain and become more focused. Taking a break may seem counter-productive to getting things done, but you’ll help yourself out in the long run by grabbing a glass of water or a healthy snack each hour, and you’ll feel much more relaxed and productive. It’s a win-win!
Call A Friend.
Studies show that those with a strong social network tend to live longer than those without one. That’s because our friends help build us up, give us a sense of belonging, and help us deal with difficult situations. We don’t always have to go it alone, so when you’re feeling like you’re about to snap, pick up the phone and chat it up with someone who you know has your back. It’s a great stress reliever.
Regular exercise can do wonder for keeping your stress levels low, but even if you haven’t seen the inside of a gym in a while, taking a 5-10 minute brisk walk when you’re extra stressed can make a big difference. You’ll remove yourself from your stressful situation of the moment, get some fresh air, and release powerful stress-fighting endorphins.
Above everything, remember that fighting stress is important to remain healthy and productive. If you feel yourself starting to get overwhelmed, practice one or more of the five tips above.
Having a neurological condition, such as Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease can be overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. But one thing many people may not realize is how it will affect their bladder. Luckily, there are treatments available that can help to minimize symptoms of neurogenic bladder and allow you to live without the fear of an accident. Today, we’re going to discuss what neurogenic bladder is, and 2 ways you can treat it.
What Is Neurogenic Bladder?
Neurogenic bladder affects many Americans and occurs when there is a problem with the way your brain communicates with your bladder. People who have a neurogenic bladder usually experience a bladder that is either overactive (spastic) or underactive (flaccid).
What are the symptoms of a neurogenic bladder?
There are many symptoms of a neurogenic bladder. These include:
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
An urgent need to use the empty the bladder immediately
The inability to completely empty the bladder
A weak urine stream
Nocturia, the need to empty the bladder more than once per night
What treatment options exist for Neurogenic Bladder?
Luckily, there are many treatment options for Neurogenic Bladder.
Certain foods and drinks are known bladder irritants and may contribute to an overactive bladder. Try keeping a bladder diary to identify any triggers that may be causing your bladder problems and then work to avoid them. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help ease pressure placed on the bladder and also strengthen the pelvic floor muscles used to control bladder function.
Many people with neurogenic bladders use a catheter to control their bladder. A catheter is a thin tube that is inserted into the urethra and then into the bladder to allow urine to drain from the bladder. While using a catheter may sound a little intimidating at first, most people are able to master the process quickly and it can provide a great deal of freedom for those struggling with bladder control.
There are a number of pharmaceutical options available – both prescription and over the counter. Always talk with your doctor before trying something new.
It’s not just for wrinkles! Botox is also approved for overactive bladder (spastic bladders). Your doctor will inject botox into the bladder muscle, where it helps to block the nerve signals that trigger OAB, or spastic bladder. Many people find this reduces leaks and the number of times you need to urinate each day. It also helps with that urgent feeling of needing to empty the bladder.
If all else fails, there are different surgeries available to treat neurogenic bladder. Bladder augmentation is a surgical procedure to make the bladder larger. This helps reduce the pressure in the bladder, and reduce leaks.
If you’re living with Neurogenic Bladder, talk with your doctor about treatment options. Need help finding a qualified specialist? Try our Doctor Finder!
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: Does incontinence happen over time, or is it something that comes on suddenly?
Expert Answer: This really depends on your unique situation. For many people, aging, and pelvic floors that have been weakened over time can slowly contribute to incontinence. For women, this process may have started with childbirth as the initial factor that caused the weakness. Overtime, if not treated or seen to, a weak pelvic floor can lead to incontinence, even if it didn’t happen right away after birth (or if it went away for a while).
There are other things that can contribute to incontinence over time too. Being over weight can place excess pressure on the bladder, making it harder to avoid accidents. Smoking can contribute to incontinence since many long-time smokers develop a chronic cough, again placing excess pressure on the bladder and causing the pelvic floor to weaken over time.
Certain neurological diseases, such as MS or Parkinson’s Disease, and diabetes, can also increase your risk for incontinence, as they interfere with the nerve signals between the bladder and the brain.
However, other things can contribute to incontinence too, and can be much more apparent quickly rather than over a period of time. In men, prostate surgery can sometimes lead to a period of incontinence immediately after the procedure. And incontinence can also result in anyone who may have had neurological damage, such as spinal cord damage from an accident, or other medical condition. Even some minor conditions, such as a bladder infection, may cause a sudden episode of incontinence.
Finally, sometimes the foods you eat or the medications you take may cause you to have incontinence. There are many known bladder irritants that can contribute to incontinence: alcohol, caffeine, spicy or acidic foods (keep in mind that this is a case by case basis – not everyone is affected by every bladder irritant). And, some medications, such has heart and blood pressure medications, or muscle relaxants may act as diuretics, causing you to increase your urine production, and potentially leading to incontinence.
The most important thing to remember here, no matter how incontinence comes about, is that it’s not a normal condition. Common? Yes. Normal? No. Incontinence is not an inevitable part of aging, nor should it be something you feel you need to live with. Many people can see great improvements with behavioral and lifestyle changes, and if those don’t work, you can talk to your doctor about medications, in-office treatments, or even surgery.
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!
Those with incontinence know that having it can be a lot of work. Just being prepared takes effort, and having an accident can create a laundry list (literally) of things you have to do.
There are of course many standard things that you do to protect yourself. Wear protection, talk to your doctor, etc. But, like with any condition, people find different ways of coping that may not always seem as obvious to others. We wanted to know what people do on a daily basis that helps them deal with incontinence. So we asked. Here are some of the best tips we heard:
Talk about it.
One of the first and best things you can do when you have incontinence is to talk about it. Many people are embarrassed to have incontinence and for that reason try to keep it hidden from friends, family and even their doctor for years. But opening up about your incontinence can really take a load off. You’ll often find that people are supportive you and you may just find the push you need to seek treatment. Too nervous to talk to someone close to you? Try the NAFC message boards. It’s an anonymous forum filled with supportive people who are experiencing bladder or bowel conditions. It’s a warm and friendly community and can be a great place to connect with others who can share tips with you, or just lend an ear. Sign up for the message boards here.
Don’t be afraid to change your doctor.
Most physicians are very helpful when patients come to them with incontinence. But if you feel that you’re being brushed off, it’s time to find a new physician. Incontinence may be common as we age, but it’s not normal, and you should never be told to just live with it. And, if you’re feeling like your treatment plan just isn’t cutting it, talk to your doctor about changing things up. Remember – you are in charge of your own health. Be your own advocate.
We’ve heard from many people that using baby powder helps to keep moisture at bay when wearing absorbent briefs. This is a great option to try if you experience a lot of sweating.
Research your condition.
So many people with incontinence live for years in denial, thinking that if they ignore the problem, it might go away, or at the very least, they won’t have to admit they have the condition. But that’s not a good way to live. Learn as much as you can about your condition and the treatments available. Try behavioral modifications to see if any of them work. Talk to your doctor about your research, and let him or her know if you find something you‘re interested in trying. Again – no one will care more about your health than you, so don’t be a bystander. Get busy and be in the know. Because knowledge really is power.
Pay attention to what you eat.
It sounds simple, but watching what you eat really can have an effect on your bladder. First, identify your triggers. Keep a bladder diary for a few days and see if you notice any patterns. Do you feel an urgent need every time you have a diet soft drink? Have an accident each morning after your orange juice? You might start to see some trends that correlate to what you eat, indicating that those are foods that are irritating your bladder. Once you identify your problem foods or drinks, try eliminating them and see if it makes a difference.
Don’t be afraid to try lots of products until you find one that works.
There are so many products on the market, it’s nearly impossible that you won’t eventually find one that works for you. The trick is to think about the 3 F’s: form, fit and function. In other words, figure out what style you like, make sure the fit is good, and think about how and when you will use the product. Then, try lots of brands and styles until you find one that works best. Many mail order services offer sample packs to make it easier (and less expensive) to try different products and most of them also have consultants on hand to walk you through selecting something that will be right for you.
Incontinence can really shake up your confidence. You may feel nervous to go out for fear of having an accident. Or you may be scared that someone will notice you’re wearing absorbent products. But incontinence is a medical condition, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And since over 25 million people live with incontinence, you likely know someone else who has this problem too. So keep your chin up, get treatment, and get busy living your life. Holding yourself back because of something like incontinence just isn’t worth it.
March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month here in the US and we’re taking a moment to talk about MS and it’s effect on the bladder and bowel.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) happens when the body’s immune system attacks the protective coating around the nerve fibers in the central nervous system (CNS), damaging the nerves. This alters or stops the messages within the CNS and can produce a variety of symptoms in people.
What are the symptoms of MS?
While symptoms of MS vary from person to person, and even within the same person at different points throughout their lifetime, some of the more common symptoms of MS are fatigue, pain, numbness or tingling, weakness, walking difficulty, vision problems, sexual problems, dizziness and vertigo, bladder and bowel problems, thinking difficulty, emotional changes and depression.1 Luckily, many of these symptoms are treatable with medication.
How does MS affect bladder function?
In a healthy bladder, the nerves in the bladder communicate through the spinal cord to the brain, notifying it that the bladder needs to be emptied. For this process to work smoothly, it requires a coordination between the bladder muscles and the sphincter.
For people with MS, bladder function can be impaired when the signal from the bladder to the brain is delayed or blocked. This can cause the bladder to be either overactive (often referred to as a “spastic” bladder), or under-active, resulting in the inability to empty the bladder completely. Either of these conditions can lead to a variety of problems, including:
Urinary Urgency (The need to urinate frequently and urgently.)
Nocturia (Needing to wake to use the bathroom more than one time per night.)
Sphincter Dyssynergia A problem where there is both a storage dysfunction and an emptying dysfunction. The bladder is trying to contract and empty, and the urethra contracts instead of relaxing, allowing little or no urine to pass.
Under-active Bladder: The nerve signals from the bladder to the brain are damaged and the signal for the bladder to contract and release urine are blocked. This can cause the bladder to eventually overflow and leak urine, or, if the bladder cannot empty completely, results in urinary retention.
In addition to disease related complications, some medications for MS can also cause bladder problems.
How can bladder problems with MS be treated?
Luckily, there are various treatment options that can be used to address bladder problems associated with multiple sclerosis.
Behavioral modifications, such as avoiding bladder irritating foods and drinks, and bladder retraining can help to manage problems in some people. Pelvic floor physical therapy can also work by strengthening the pelvic floor muscle, providing greater muscle control.
Intermittent self-catheterization, in which a small tube is inserted into the urethra to empty the bladder, can prevent the bladder from overfilling and help prevent urinary infections.
There are many pharmaceutical options available for bladder control. In addition, PTNS, Interstim, and Botox are all in office procedures that can have a positive effect on bladder control for many patients.
Talk to your doctor about your options to find one that works best for you.
References: 1. National MS Society: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms
You’ve seen the claims. A stronger pelvic floor! Fewer Leaks! Better Sex! The kegel craze is hot right now and for good reason. Kegels can do all of these things and we’re a big proponent of doing them for maintaining good bladder health and a healthy pelvic floor. But before you jump on the kegel bandwagon, read this post. Because while kegels can be super effective for all the reasons listed above, they can sometimes cause problems in women who have certain conditions.
Many women suffer from a weakened pelvic floor, the series of muscles and tissues that form a hammock at the bottom of your pelvis, and are responsible for holding many of your organs (including your bladder) in place. A weakened pelvic floor can be caused by many factors, but pregnancy, childbirth, and aging are all high on the list. This laxity in the pelvic floor can lead to things like incontinence, or even pelvic organ prolapse if not treated properly. And a great way to treat it (most of the time) is with kegels.
But not everyone has a weak pelvic floor – some women experience pelvic floor tension, which prevents the pelvic floor muscles from contracting or relaxing at a normal rate, again making them weak, but in a different way. This can lead to things like constipation, painful intercourse, or the inability to empty your bladder completely.
People with pelvic floor tension are advised NOT to do kegels, and if you think about it, it makes sense. Trying to tighten something that is already too tight can make your problems worse.
So, how do you know if you should be doing kegels or not? Our best advice is to see a physical therapist specialized in women’s health. A trained PT can give you a thorough evaluation and can determine if you have a pelvic floor that’s too tight or too loose.
An added bonus is that if your PT finds you’re a good candidate for kegels, they’ll be able to show you exactly how to do one – something that is actually somewhat difficult for many women. And, if you’re advised NOT to do a kegel, they’ll be able to help you learn how to relax your pelvic floor and will show you exercises to help with that as well.
It’s also worth noting that while kegels are great for many people, they also aren’t the end all be all move for your pelvic floor. Your muscles are all connected, after all, so concentrating just on kegels won’t be as effective as if you worked your entire core, glutes and thighs.
Want to find a PT in your area? Try our Specialist Locator!
If you have incontinence, or a pelvic organ prolapse, you’ve likely heard the term “pessary” tossed around at some point. Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition in which your pelvic floor becomes weak or compromised – sometimes due to age, sometimes due to trauma (like childbirth), causing one or more of your pelvic organs to collapse into the vagina. Pelvic organ prolapse can be mild, or severe, and symptoms can vary greatly depending on the severity. Some women may not even realize they have a prolapse until later in life. Symptoms can include pressure or a feeling of heaviness in the vagina, incontinence, or even pain.
While some women can see big improvements in their condition with physical therapy, the condition cannot truly be “fixed” without surgery. But, it is possible to manage pelvic organ prolapse by using a pessary.
A pessary is a medical device, typically made out of silicone that is placed in the vagina and is used to support the pelvic floor, and the bladder, uterus and rectum. Pessaries are not a one-size-fits all type of device. Everyone is different so your doctor will usually fit you for one that works for you. This may take a few tries, so don’t get discouraged if the first one you try doesn’t feel quite right. Just be open with your doctor and work with them until you get the right fit.
Once you’ve found the right fit, your doctor will train you on how to insert and remove the device. You’ll also learn how to care for your pessary, which will require weekly or biweekly cleansing.
Pessaries can be a great solution for women with pelvic organ prolapse, or bladder incontinence, who don’t want to consider surgery (or are not quite ready for surgery yet). It works by “holding up” the organs that may have collapsed into the vagina, relieving many of the side effects of a prolapse, such as the feeling of pressure or heaviness in the vagina, or incontinence.
If you think you may be a good candidate for a pessary, talk to your doctor. They can review the pros and cons and help get you fitted for one. It’s a great option for those experiencing symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, and can provide great relief without undergoing surgery.
Talking about incontinence is hard for many people. Even talking to a doctor can be challenging: on average, people wait 7 years before even seeking help for this condition. But sometimes opening up can be the best thing you can do to begin the process of moving past your embarrassment and moving on to treatment.
But how do you start? And whom do you start with? Our advice is simple: find someone you trust and whom you think will be supportive. Many times this is a spouse or a partner, or a close friend or family member. You don’t need to shout about your bladder leaks from the rooftops – often just telling one person helps to unleash the burden you’ve been carrying around and can help give voice to the anxiety and worry that has been racing around in your head.
Here are some great tips to follow when starting the conversation:
1. Set the conversation up by letting them know that you need their support. Some ways to start the conversation might be:
“I’ve been dealing with a health issue for a while and could really use someone to talk to about it. Can I talk to you?”
“I have a condition that’s really been getting me down. Do you have a moment to talk?”
“As a close friend/spouse/family member, I know that you are supportive of me. Can I talk openly to you about an issue I’ve been experiencing?”
2. Be open. If you’re going to talk to them, then make sure you’re being open and honest. We know talking to others about your own bladder leakage can be hard, but if you’re really talking to someone close to you, they’ve likely suspected something was up for a while. Let them know not just the issue, but how it’s been making you feel.
3. Tell them what you need from them. Are you talking to them because you don’t want to hide the problem anymore? Do you need some help researching treatment options? Are you asking for their advice on what to do? Or do you just want a sounding board to help get some things off your chest? Whatever the case may be, help them be there for you by letting them know what you expect from them.
Opening up can be hard, but it’s healthy to talk about the things that are bothering you. And, if you feel that you don’t have anyone close to you to discuss the issue (or even if you do!), make an appointment with your doctor. He or she will be able to give you sound advice and treatment recommendations. And, it’s likely that he’s been in that seat before with other patients, so he knows just what you’re going through.
Need help finding a physician? Visit our Find A Specialist Tool!
Living with incontinence can present many physical challenges – needing to get to a restroom quickly, changing clothes or bedding after an accident, cleaning yourself up after a leak. But the emotional effects may be the most damaging.
Those who don’t live with this condition may not realize the impact that it has on it’s victims: fear of social events or gatherings, constantly seeking out bathrooms in the event of an emergency, concerns about unpleasant odors, and the incessant fear of having an accident in public, or that people will learn your secret. These are real side effects that can’t be ignored, and can create great social anxiety for people living with incontinence. For many people, it’s enough that they avoid social functions at all cost, causing their relationships with friends and family to wane.
If you live with social anxiety because of incontinence, there are some things you can do to overcome it. See our list below for our 4 best tips.
Prevention is always the best medicine. Make sure you’re prepared for a social situation by arming yourself with the right products and information. If you’ve got plans to attend a social event, make sure you’re prepared in the case of an accident. Know where the bathrooms are and have a spare set of clothes in case you need to change quickly. Choose your clothing wisely – black is often a forgiving color in the event of leaks.
Keeping a regular fitness routine can do wonders for both your incontinence and your anxiety. Maintaining an optimal weight can help minimize bladder leaks. And, regular movement can be an effective way to control cases of mild anxiety. You don’t need any fancy equipment or gym membership to make this happen either. Just getting outside for a 30 minute walk most days of the week will do wonders. (Read our tips on how to start a walking group!)
Talk About It.
Sometimes you just need to get your frustrations out. If your incontinence is affecting your mood, find a close friend or family member you trust to talk about it. Often just telling someone our troubles can take a load off and us feel not quite so alone. Don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to? Sign up for the NAFC message boards and connect with thousands of people who understand what you’re going through and are ready to listen. If all else fails, write your situation and feelings down on paper. Journaling can be a great way to explore how you’re feeling and make sense of your emotions.
We’ve saved the best tip for last. Treatment, for both incontinence and social anxiety, is readily available. There are many things you can do to manage incontinence, from behavioral changes, to medications, or even surgery. And anxiety can be treated in a plethora of ways as well – cognitive (talk) therapy, meditation, and medications can go a long way in helping you deal with the problem. There’s no need to suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor about what you’re facing. They will be able to put you on a treatment plan to help you deal with these difficult conditions so that you can get back to living your best life.
Need help finding a specialist to treat your condition? Visit our Specialist Locator Tool to find one in your area.
Do you run to the bathroom after every meal? Do you ever notice that you always seem to have an accident after eating a specific type of food? It’s no coincidence. What you eat and drink has a huge effect on your bathroom habits, and if you’re suffering from bladder leakage (or bowel leakage, for that matter), it’s worth your time to start paying more attention to your diet.
There are many known bladder irritants that may be causing you trouble.
Below is a list of some of the most common foods that have been known to irritate the bladder:
Citrus Juice & Fruits
Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
The sugar, caffeine, or acidity in these foods and drinks can irritate the bladder, causing an accidental leakage to occur. If you think one of these foods may be contributing to your bladder leaks, try eliminating it from your diet for a couple of weeks and see what happens. After a while, slowly add it back in and see if the problem reemerges. If so, you know it’s a food or drink you should avoid.
Everyone is different of course, and not all of the foods listed above will be triggers for everyone. That cup of coffee that causes you to sprint to the ladies room each morning may not have any effect on someone else struggling with bladder leakage. That’s why it’s so important to keep track of what you eat and drink. A bladder diary can be ideal for this task by letting you track what you consume, and also when you have accidents. Over time, you may start to see a correlation between that tomato sauce you love and your trips to the bathroom. A bladder diary also comes in handy when talking with your doctor about your condition. It gives them a roadmap of what you’re experiencing and helps them in diagnosing your problem and finding a solution.
Ready to start tracking? Download your free bladder or bowel diary here.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all in the past year or two, you’ve likely noticed an increase in stories about the importance of gut health. The gut, it turns out, is responsible for how your body works –your immunity, your energy levels, your hormone balance, waste elimination, and even how you think can all be affected by an unhealthy gut. And while there are many factors that affect gut health (stress levels, the amount of shut-eye you get), what you eat plays an important role in ensuring your gut is helping you operate optimally.
As of late, many health gurus have been touting probiotics as a great way to improve your gut health. And it’s true that the gut needs good probiotics, the “good” bacteria found in some foods and supplements to help it do its job. But how do you get these good bacteria, and are they right for you?
Most experts agree that a healthy dose of probiotics is a good thing for most people. You can get many probiotics through foods you might be eating already. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi, yogurt, and beverages like kefir and kombucha, are all great options if you want to eat more probiotic foods. You may also want to consider a probiotic supplement if your diet lacks these food types.
Experts warn to use a bit of caution when initially consuming foods high in probiotics, as they may cause a bit of irritation in your digestive system as your body gets used to them. Additionally, many probiotic supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to do your research on brands and choose a high-quality product. As always, talk with your doctor before you start taking a probiotic, as they may not be for everyone. Those with an illness that affects the immune system may not be a good fit, as the probiotics may cause the person to get sick.
Want some more info on this subject? Here’s a great guide on taking probiotics from Harvard Health.
We often talk about incontinence as if it has already happened. In most cases, if you’re visiting this website, it probably has. But there are many things that you can do that can prevent incontinence from starting in the first place. Most of these things may also help you manage, or even eliminate symptoms of incontinence once you’ve already gotten it. Read below for some tips to stop incontinence in its tracks.
5 Tips To Prevent Incontinence
Tip #1: Maintain A Healthy Weight
Carrying around extra weight puts a lot of strain on the pelvic floor, causing the muscles to weaken and lead to leaks. In addition, folks who are overweight generally put extra pressure on their bladder, which can lead to leakage. Maintain a healthy weight by following a healthy diet and making exercise a part of your daily routine. Bonus: incorporating exercise into your day can strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles, leading to even greater protection from leaks.
Tip #2: Don’t Smoke
Smoking on its own is an ugly habit and harmful to your health in more ways than one. People who smoke can eventually develop a chronic “smokers cough”. This chronic coughing can put a lot of strain on the pelvic floor, causing it to weaken and lead to incontinence. Smoking also irritates the bladder, causing you to need more frequent trips to the bathroom. And, smoking can lead to bladder cancer. Need help kicking the habit? Read these tips.
Tip #3: Keep Your Pelvic Floor In Shape
The pelvic floor is a basket of muscles that supports the bladder, rectum and the uterus in women, and the bladder, rectum and prostate in men. These muscles are essential in maintaining control over your bladder and bowel. Keeping the pelvic floor healthy can go a long way in preventing or treating incontinence. Learn more about the pelvic floor and how you can protect it here.
Tip #4: See A PT After Childbirth
We just talked about how important the pelvic floor is in maintaining continence. But certain things, like childbirth, can really wreak havoc on the pelvic floor and cause it to weaken. Many women don’t understand the impact that a weakened pelvic floor can have on them, even long after the baby is born. Seeing a physical therapist specially trained in women’s health soon after childbirth can be very helpful, as they can ensure that you are healing properly and learning how to correctly (and safely) get your pelvic floor back into shape. If left untreated, a weakened pelvic floor can lead to things like incontinence and even pelvic organ prolapse later in life, so this simple step can go a long way in protecting yourself for the future. Learn more about how a physical therapist can help you here.
Tip #5: Watch Your Diet
This may seem to echo Tip #1, but even if you are at an ideal weight, if you’re eating foods that irritate your bladder (and if you’re susceptible to incontinence) then you may be setting yourself up for leaks. There are many common bladder irritants (see a list of some of them here) but they can vary from person to person: what irritates one person may not bother another. If you do experience leaks, pay close attention to your diet and take note of foods that may be triggering leaks.
For many of us, January is a time for setting resolutions – A blank slate where we can rewrite a new reality for ourselves. For those with incontinence, knowing where to start treatment can be one of the biggest challenges. Luckily, we’re here to help.
Treatment for incontinence has come a long way in recent years.
Here’s a breakdown of steps you can take right now, as well as some more advanced options to look at for the future.
1. Manage incontinence with adult absorbent products.
Managing your incontinence is much different than treating your incontinence, but it is the logical first step. After all, you need to find some way to stay dry until you can properly address the issue. For most people, management will consist of a few things – finding a good absorbent product that works, and watching your food and drink intake to see if there are certain triggers that may make your incontinence worse. Management is a first step, but definitely not the last - while both of these can do wonders in helping you control the symptoms of incontinence, they’re not really addressing the true problem.
2. Behavioral Therapy.
Along with diet and exercise, there are several other things you may want to try when treating incontinence. Bladder and bowel retraining – which literally involves training your muscles to hold urine or bowel movements for longer more controlled periods of time – are a good step to try and improvements can often be seen in several weeks. In addition, many people see vast improvements from physical therapy. A qualified physical therapist (usually specialized in treating the pelvic floor) can give you an examination, pinpoint areas of weakness or tension, and provide a customized treatment plan designed to address your muscle strength or weakness. (Need help finding a PT? Check our Specialist Locator.)
If behavioral modifications don’t yield the results your looking for, medications may be your next option. Most medications for bladder control work by relaxing the bladder muscles and preventing the spasms that sometimes accompany overactive bladder and incontinence. These work differently for everyone, and can sometimes produce unwanted side effects though, so talk to your doctor about your options before settling on one.
4. Advanced Therapy Options.
If medications don’t work for you, or you don’t like the side effects that they present, there are still other options. InterStim and Botox injections are two of the more advanced, yet very effective procedures available. InterStim, also known as sacral neuromodulation, works by stimulating the nerves that control your bladder, bowel and rectum, and the muscles related to urinary and anal functions (the sacral nerves). InterStim stimulates these nerves with a mild current, which helps your bladder/bowel/rectum work as they should. Botox, treats overactive bladder symptoms by calming the nerves that trigger the overactive bladder muscle. Both procedures are fairly simple and take about an hour to complete.
For some, surgery may be an option. There are several types of surgeries that address stress urinary incontinence. These procedures are intended to help correct a weakened pelvic floor, where the bladder neck and urethra have dropped. The most popular procedure is to use a sling, which serves as a “hammock” to support the urethra. Surgical slings may be used in both men and women who experience stress incontinence, and also women who have experienced pelvic organ prolapse. There are many types of sling procedures so be sure to talk to your doctor about your options and research what is right for you.
The most important thing to remember when exploring incontinence treatment is that you have options. Talk to your doctor about your wishes and work together to find a treatment that works for you.