Patient Perspective: Brad's Story

 Brad's Story - Opening Up About Incontinence

My friends and I are close. Growing up in a small town, we’ve always been there for each other – to joke with, lean on in hard times, and to razz each other. We have a tight-knit group of 5 and they’ve been my chosen family since I was 12. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since our early days, but here we all are.

I experienced incontinence after having my prostate removed in 2013. It wasn’t a fun thing to go through, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it, but the one thing that made it easier was that I knew to expect it – and that I wasn’t the only one.

You see, one of my buddies in our group, Joe, had also gone through something similar a few years back. He pulled me aside before surgery and told me that the worst thing that was going to happen was that I’d probably have some leaks – maybe a lot. It had happened to him for at least a year after his surgery and he said it was “hell “.

But he told me that the thing that had made it worse was not knowing it was coming, That was why he was talking to me – he wanted to me to know that I wasn’t alone. And, if it weren’t for his advice and pick-me-up talks, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that first year.

I’ve recovered well and don’t really experience the leaks anymore. But I still talk about it. Because that’s what we should all do with those we are close to. You never know who might benefit from your experience, or who might also go through something similar and just need a friend or to know they are not alone.

Don’t let your own embarrassment get in the way of opening up to your loved ones. I’m sure glad Joe didn’t.
 
Brad T., Auburn, AL

Patient Perspective: Larry's Story

 Larry's Story - Learning to manage my incontinence

I’m 68 years old and I have incontinence. I’ve suffered a lot of setbacks over the years. I lost a finger in the army. I suffer from high blood pressure. And I have an old football injury that flares up regularly. But I have never suffered as much shame and humiliation as I have since I started experiencing incontinence.

It started innocently enough - a leak here and there. My doctor said it was due to prostate problems and gave me some medication to help. It did for a while, but then the leaks flared up again and I was forced to admit that this problem was not going away.

My first trip to the grocery store to purchase incontinence pads was a doozy. Standing there, looking at the wall of options was so intimidating. What do I choose? What size? How do I know it will fit? What if it doesn’t – can I return the bag? I had so many questions and no one to ask – after all, it’s not like men just talk about peeing their pants with each other all the time. Not to mention I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure that no one I knew saw me standing there. It would be so embarrassing to be “caught” in this situation.

When I finally got home, I started trying out the various absorbent products that I had purchased. I had bought 3 different types and gave each one a fair shot for a full day before making the call. Unfortunately none of them worked so I was back to the drawing board.

Fortunately, my wife found a company online that sold different products so I gave it a shot. I don’t know why I didn’t start with this option in the first place. They offered a free consultation so I gave them a call. The rep was so helpful and it was great having a guide to walk me through the different options, and also learn more about me, my condition and my lifestyle to help find something that would work best for me.

These days, I only use online services to order absorbent products. And, I’ve found great products that help me keep my leaks controlled, and my condition under wraps so no one is the wiser.

I still don’t love having incontinence, but it’s become such a normal part of life now that it doesn’t have the same hold on me as it once did. I didn’t envision this happening to me, but am happy to know that there are resources out there to help and products available that can make it more manageable. I feel free to live my life without fear of leaks and that is something to be really proud of.

Larry B., Seattle, WA

Patient Perspective: Nick's Story

 Nick's Story - Incontinence After Prostate Removal

In August of 2015, I underwent surgery to have my prostate removed.  I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer the year before and my doctor had been closely observing me since then. 

When it seemed that my cancer was growing more quickly than he liked, he suggested surgery.  “Afterall”, he said, “you’re only 63.  You can still have a long life without worrying about this.”

So, after a lot of research, I went for it.  I knew there would be complications afterward, but incontinence was not something that I had anticipated being that big of a deal.  I thought I’d probably have to wear diapers for a couple of weeks and that would be the end of it. 

Boy was I wrong. 

Nine months later and I was still having a difficult time making it to the restroom.  It was so embarrassing as a man to face this problem. I couldn’t do the things I wanted to because I was scared of having an accident or a leak, and I felt ashamed of the bulky diapers that I was forced to constantly wear. 

I finally made an appointment with a surgeon in May to discuss a sling procedure and will be having the procedure done next month.  I’m hopeful that this will be a solution for me so that I can get on with my life and get back to doing the things that are important to me. 

Nick W., Houston, TX

Patient Perspective: Alice's Story

 Alice's Story - Standing up to bladder leaks

It’s a funny thing, aging. I’m 68 years old, but I don’t feel any different than I did at 20. It happens so gradually really, but it feels like it comes out of nowhere. One day, you’re sitting there with your whole life ahead of you, and then suddenly, you’re walking along, you glance at your reflection and you see an old woman looking back at you. But you don’t feel any different. At least I didn’t. Until I started having bladder leaks.

My bladder leaks crept up on me just like getting old did. I had a few accidents here and there after kids, but didn’t start really noticing them regularly until I was in my late 50’s. I told myself I was too young to have this problem; that they weren’t that big of a deal and that I could manage it on my own.

The truth is, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know about my leakage problem. I hid it well, or so I thought, but after a while, it started to weigh on me. Always packing a spare change of clothes, always scouting out the nearest bathroom in case of an emergency. It wasn’t until my daughter finally confronted me that I broke down.

I was visiting her at her house when I had an accident and had to change my pants. My daughter noticed and finally decided that enough was enough. She told me how she had watched me for years try to “hide” my problem, and urged me to get help. She also told me how she herself had talked with her doctor after her son was born and she had started experiencing leaks too. “The good news,” she said, “is that I’m doing so much better, and I hardly have any leaks at all anymore. I want that for you too, Mom.”

Talking to my daughter really opened up my eyes. She was right, and I couldn’t believe I had spent so long trying to hide the issue. Worse, I couldn’t believe she had gone through it too. If I had been open about it, maybe I could have offered some comfort to her, but instead she had had to deal with it on her own. I felt ashamed and embarrassed – not because of my bladder leaks, but because of my silence.

So, I decided to finally get help. After so many years of living with the problem, I didn’t realize how much it had taken over my life. And now that I’ve started taking medication for my bladder leaks, I am so much happier and freer.

I am 68, but the 20 year old still lives inside of me. And now, I can proudly say that I feel just as good today as I did back then.

Don’t wait to get help. Take the initiative to talk to your doctor and get the help you need. We can’t all do this alone and life is too short to let a day go by where this condition is controlling you. Suck up your pride, realize that we all need some help once in a while and just do it. I promise you, you’ll be so glad you did.

Alice B., San Jose, CA

Patient Perspective: Sally's Story

 Sally's Story - Running and working out when you have incontinence

Once both my kids were in elementary school full time, I finally started working out. I became a runner, and devoted most mornings after they were in school to jogging through the neighborhood. I entered races and started doing small 5Ks, until I finally worked my way up to a full marathon last year. Things were going great and I was feeling strong and happy.

So, imagine my surprise, after years of being an avid runner, to suddenly start experiencing bladder leaks. My kids were not little anymore – they were both in high school at this point and I thought that I bypassed this type of problem that usually accompanies childbirth.

I spoke to my doctor, and found out that, to my surprise, this problem often accompanies serious runners too. Turns out that pounding the pavement every day isn’t so great for your pelvic floor. In fact, my doctor told me that up to 30% of female runners experience incontinence while running.

My doctor said there are lots of things that can weaken the pelvic floor over the years; childbirth, age, and surgeries can all take their toll (I unfortunately check all three boxes). Add to that running several miles per week, and I saw how my activity was contributing to the problem. 

I wasn't ready to give up running, and luckily my doctor didn't think I had to. While there are many therapies available (medication, surgery, exercise), he started me on a regimen of kegel exercises. I do them first thing in the morning, and 3 other times throughout the day.  He also recommended that I try some other behavioral tactics: limit my fluid intake right before my run, make sure to empty my bladder before running, and try planning a route that has some bathroom stops along the way. 

These changes have been helping me a lot and while there might come a time that I consider something like surgery, for now, it helps to know that I’m able to take matters into my own hands and manage my bladder leaks without stopping the activities I love. 

I'm glad I opened up about this condition and can continue my passion!

Sally S., Atlanta, GA

Patient Perspective: Allison's Story

 Allison's Story - Beating Incontinence After Bladder Cancer 

I'm a survivor. I’ve lived through the joy (and scars) of giving birth to three boys, experienced two job layoffs, suffered through one divorce, and most recently, battled (and beat the shit out of) breast cancer. I didn’t really expect, after all that, to be so impacted by something as trivial as incontinence.

I first started having symptoms during my cancer treatments – my doctor said that it could sometimes be a side effect of chemo – but thought that it would go away once chemo was over. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

A year after completing treatment, I was still experiencing leakage.  At first, I just lived with it, thinking it would go away on it’s own. I packed extra underwear and experimented with various incontinence pads to help me manage.

I finally decided to talk to my doctor when it was clear that my leaky bladder wasn’t getting any better. My doctor had me make some diet adjustments, prescribed a medication to help stop the leaks, and sent me to a physical therapist to help me learn how to strengthen up my pelvic floor. 

I’ve had one year of regular PT sessions and I am happy to say that I rarely have leaks anymore (even after I stopped taking the medication). 

I’ve lived through a lot of setbacks in my life. But after surviving all of the hardships, I certainly wasn’t going to let something like incontinence control me. Life is just too short to live with something that’s so treatable.

Ladies – find the help if you need it.
 

Alison B., San Diego, CA

Patient Perspective: Marilyn's Story

 Marilyn's Story, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

My mom has always had urgency issues. Growing up it seemed that almost anything she ate would result in a bathroom trip within the next 30 minutes.  And not just causal bathroom trips either – urgent, NEED TO GO RIGHT NOW, bathroom trips.  These were a constant source of frustration for our family – no one understood that it was something she couldn’t help. 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve experienced some of the same symptoms myself. The urgent needs to empty my bowels, occasional abdominal pains, daily bloating. Thinking that it was just something I inherited, and something that couldn’t really be fixed, I lived with those symptoms for years before casually mentioning it to my doctor during a routine check up.

I was surprised when he mentioned irritable bowel syndrome and after hearing the symptoms, was certain that it was what I, and likely my mother, suffered from for all those years.

After some tests, I was proven correct and he started me on a medication that has mostly erased the discomfort I used to feel on a daily basis.

My Mom has been gone for several years, and I hate that we never pushed her to talk to her doctor about this problem. Thinking back on all the pain and frustration she went through (and likely embarrassment and shame) feels like such a waste considering all that can be done to treat IBS.

But, while it may be too late for her to get treatment, I’m glad that I finally did speak up to my doctor and am not following the same path. Life is just too short to live every day with something that can be treated so easily.
 
Marilyn R., Indianapolis, IN

Patient Perspective: Merrell's Story

 Patient Perspective: Merrell's Story, new mom, stress urinary incontinence

I gave birth to my first little bundle of joy a year ago.  My pregnancy was a dream – no morning sickness, no stretch marks - it was a total breeze, apart from the occasional leaks I had leading up to the birth. I had heard leaks were totally normal though, and figured that after baby came, everything would go back to the way it was before, so I didn’t really give them much thought.

After my baby was born, things changed dramatically. Suddenly, I was dealing with breastfeeding problems, sleepless nights, and a fussy baby that needed me 24-7. Not to mention those little leaks that I had before baby came - they were still lingering and I found myself changing my own pants almost as often as I was changing my baby. Every sneeze, laugh, and jump, caused me to leak and it really started to get me down. After all, I was in the middle of learning a new job – the most important job of my life, being a mom – and I couldn’t even get my own body to behave appropriately.

I finally talked to my doctor about it and he recommended physical therapy. I didn’t even know that was an option!  But, turns out that strengthening your core and  your pelvic floor muscles can really help control your bladder. This was great, because I wasn’t prepared to undergo surgery (not recommended if you’re planning on having more kids, like I am), and was really hoping to find a more natural option. So this seemed like a perfect fit for me.

My therapist started by reviewing my anatomy and showing me how all my muscles are connected. She also told me that I had diastasis recti, which is when your stomach muscles separate during pregnancy. This can really weaken your core, which affects your pelvic floor muscles too. She showed me exercises to help bring these muscles back together and strenghten my core. After baby, it’s also important to do your kegels to help get your strength back – my therapist told me that this would help me control those little leaks that I had when I placed stress on my bladder (like when I coughed, sneezed, or laughed).

It’s been 6 months since I started physical therapy and I’m happy to say that I’m leak free! I feel stronger and more in control of my body, and, more importantly, I feel better able to focus on and care for my growing baby.

I’m so happy I sought help. It makes me feel empowered, and better prepared to handle future pregnancies and babies.

New moms – don’t keep quite about this. Talk to your doctor and get help. There’s no need to suffer in silence. 

Merrell N., Austin, TX

Patient Perspective: Terry's Story

 Patient Perspective - Terry's Story, Overactive Bladder

I feel a little funny writing this since I’ve never really suffered from what I would consider incontinence. Sure, I’ve had a few leaks before, but on a regular basis, I don’t. I suffer from something different – Overactive Bladder

It started off simply enough – I’d be doing something like washing the dishes, or coming home from work and I’d get a very sudden NEED to use the restroom.  Like…..right now. Most of the time I would make it, but a couple of times, I did wet myself a little

I laughed it off for years – after all, it’s certainly not life threatening, and just didn’t seem like too big of a deal to worry about.  Who goes to the doctor because they have to use the bathroom a lot? So, I went on with life, slowly adjusting my routine to account for my bladder, without really even realizing it.

It wasn’t until I was 56 when my husband finally asked me when I was going to talk to someone about it.  He’d noticed all of my attempts to account for my inconsistent bladder even if I hadn’t – requesting a closer table to the restroom at dinners, always making sure I emptied my bladder before we went out, booking the isle seat in a plane for easier bathroom access, and most of all, my absence – me always running off during any event to go. 

At first I didn’t understand what he meant – I was fine! But when he started pointing out how drastically I had changed, without even realizing it, I knew it was time to get help.

So, the next week I went to see my doctor. Turns out this is a condition a lot of people deal with. He gave me a list of foods to watch out for, prescribed some pelvic floor exercises, and set me up on a medication that seems to be doing its job. 

I can’t believe the positive effects it has had on my life - without even realizing it, I had adjusted my life to fit around my bladder and now that I don’t need to I can finally see how much I truly suffered for many years. If you deal with this condition – get help. It really will make a difference in your life, even if you can’t quite see that now.
 

Terry M., Fort Lauderdale, Fl

Patient Perspective: Audra's Story

 Audra's Story of Living With Bladder Leaks

It took me 8 years to talk to my doctor about my bladder leaks. Allow me to let that sink in for a moment – EIGHT YEARS!!  

Think about how much happens during a span of eight years. For me, I had 2 children, switched jobs once, and had a cross country move in the middle of it all.

You’d think that with all of those life changes I’d be able to address something as simple as bladder leaks. I had a million and one reasons why I put it off for so long:  “It will heal after I recover from childbirth.” “It’s not so bad that I can’t manage it.” “I can just wear a pad.” “I’ll just bring along an extra set of clothes with me in the car just in case.” “I’m usually near a bathroom so should be able to make it most of the time.”

On and on the excuses went. But as the years went by, I got sick of just “dealing with it.” I finally made an appointment with my doctor and felt silly when I told him how long I had been suffering (needlessly).  He first set me up with a Physical Therapist to work on strengthening my pelvic floor, and also prescribed me a medication to take. The PT helped me a lot and after nearly 6 months of regular therapy, I was able to quit the medication all together. Now I just go for regular check ups, but keep up the exercises at home on my own.

I feel stronger and leak free, but most of all, I feel in control of my own life again. I’ll never let something like the fear of embarrassment prevent me from getting the medical attention I need again. 

Audra S., Missoula, MT

Sometimes, A New Perspective Can Make All The Difference

 Stories from people living with incontinence

Incontinence. It’s not something we like to talk about, but it can happen to all of us. In fact, more than 25 million people live with some type of incontinence every day. And for most of those people, it takes them an average of about 6-7 years just to talk to their doctor about the problem.  That’s 6-7 years living with leaks. 6-7 years hiding accidents from loved ones. 6-7 years trying to find ways to cope with the condition. 6-7 years of letting the condition limit relationships with friends, family and work. And it’s 6-7 years of allowing incontinence to control you.

At NAFC, we hear from a lot of people with questions about their condition; how to manage it, how to stop it, and what products to try. But the one emotion that rings true in everyone is shame and embarrassment.  Women and men are so very ashamed of this condition that it keeps them from getting close to others. It causes them to avoid doing the things they once loved.  It prevents them from getting help for their bladder leaks. It keeps them from living a life without leaks.

If you’ve spent any time on our site, you know that we have tools to help you. That there are management options available and new alternatives coming out practically every day that you can try to overcome this condition. But for all the absorbent pads, devices, medications, exercises, and procedures that are out there, none of them will do a thing if you’re not willing to admit that you have this problem and that you need to do something about it.

Sometimes, the best motivation comes from other sufferers. So over the next two months, we’re rounding up stories from both women and men to help you see inside the lives of others like you. To help you know that you’re not alone. And to show you that once you find the courage to do something about incontinence, your life can be so much fuller. Many of our sufferers wish they had taken action much sooner. They wish they had talked with someone about the condition: their spouse, a friend, or their doctor.  We hope that in reading their stories, you’ll find the courage to speak up about incontinence and to do something about it.  

So please stay with us and hear from these brave women and men who have shared their stories. And who knows – maybe from them you’ll find the strength to be the next voice.

Throughout May, during Women’s Health Month, we’ll be sharing stories of women who have overcome incontinence. In June, we’ll share all of our stories from men. We’re excited you’re here, and can’t wait for you to hear what these folks have to say.

How To Start A Walking Group

 How To Start A Walking Group

How To Start A Walking Group

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!

Six Things To Try Before You Visit Your Doctor For Incontinence

 6 Things To Try Before You Visit Your Doctor For Incontinence

6 Things To Try Before You Visit Your Doctor For Incontinence

Whether you’ve just started experiencing bladder leaks, or have been dealing with them for a while, knowing how to manage incontinence can be difficult.  And even if you’ve scheduled an appointment to see your doctor, there are things you can do before speaking with him or her to start treating the problem.

This week we’re focusing on management techniques that don’t require a visit to your doctor. NAFC has a great guide on the website that will walk you through the steps of management and things to try to control bladder leaks. Check out all the steps below:

Step 1: Finding products to help you stay clean and dry

Step 2: Assess Your Condition

Step 3: Measure Your Pelvic Floor Strength

Step 4: Pelvic Floor Exercises

Step 5: Develop A Voiding Strategy

Step 6: Get Professional Help

It is possible that by performing the steps above, you may be able to reduce or even eliminate your symptoms on your own. At the very least, it will give you some good information to share with your doctor and your initial efforts will help them to get you on a course to a successful treatment plan.

Stay with us this week as we provide more tips on how to manage bladder leaks! 

Access the full guide above here, or download our printed brochure with the above tips from our Resource Center!

Learning To Accept You Have Incontinence

 Learning To Accept You Have Incontinence

We’re celebrating National Bladder Health Awareness Month by releasing a new blog series on the Lifecycle of Incontinence. This week, we’re focusing on acceptance.

Over 25 million Americans live with urinary incontinence, which is defined as the involuntary leakage of urine from the bladder. There are many treatment options available for this condition; yet, many people fail to get treatment for it.

We get it – this is a hard condition to come to terms with or to even take seriously. Many people wait years before even talking to their doctor about the condition, thinking it’s just something that happens with age, or that it’s not really that big of a deal. And, because incontinence is a condition that gradually gets worse with time, some people may not even realize the extent that it’s begun to control their lives.

In the worst cases, incontinence sufferers find themselves retreating into their own lives – declining social invitations, missing work, avoiding family and friends – all for fear of having an accident and becoming embarrassed.  Incontinence is a big deal. It affects millions of Americans, some to a debilitating degree. Shame, embarrassment, and depression – these all go hand in hand with incontinence.

But we’re here to tell you, right now, that it doesn’t have to be like that. The first step to treatment is admitting that you have a problem . This is not just an old person’s disease. It’s not something you have to “just live with”, even if it is only a minor annoyance right now. It’s not something that your doctor will think is trivial, or that your spouse or significant other won’t understand or accept. It’s a common, but definitely not normal, condition that can happen to men or women, young or old, in all walks and stages of life. New Moms, athletes, teens, and yes, older adults may all be affected.  No one is immune to incontinence.

The good news in all of this is that you have options. There are ways to manage incontinence, and even eliminate the issue all together.  But first, you need to accept that it is an issue, and decide to do something about it.

Since this week is all about acceptance and recognizing that you may have incontinence, we’re giving you the tools to do just that. We’ll be sharing articles and tips all week about the different types of incontinence, how to know what type you may have, why incontinence is a concern on a national level, and challenging you to take your first step toward treatment.

We’re glad you’re here. Stay with us!

It's Bladder Health Awareness Month, 2017!

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Hello Readers!

Each year, NAFC, along with several other health organizations, celebrates Bladder Health Awareness Month by raising awareness of the many conditions that can affect the bladder and how to treat it. This is an important month for NAFC – while we touch many people each day, it’s estimated that over 25 million Americans live with incontinence. And many of those people wait years before even having a conversation with their doctor about treatment options. It’s a debilitating condition that can cause shame, embarrassment, isolation and depression for those it touches, and, unfortunately, it is widely (and incorrectly) thought to be a condition that people should just accept as they get older. This couldn’t be further from the truth and this month, it’s our chance to shine the spotlight on the condition and show people that living with incontinence is no way to live.

So, what can you expect this month from NAFC? A lot!

Here’s a rundown of how we’re doing our part to stop the stigma:

Life Without Leaks Awareness Campaign.

NAFC launched the Life Without Leaks Campaign earlier in 2017 and it’s still going strong! Designed to show men and women of all ages that they don’t have to live with bladder leaks, this campaign sheds light on the effects of incontinence and shows people that by not treating their incontinence, they may be missing out on the best parts of their life. Life is possible without leaks. Check out the campaign here.

Blog Series: The Lifecycle of Incontinence.

This series will break down the stages of incontinence, from learning to accept you have the condition, to a description of the many treatment options available to you. Follow along on the BHealth Blog each week as we discuss the following topics:

  • Week 1: Learning To Accept You Have Incontinence
  • Week 2: What You Can Do To Manage Your Condition Before You See Your Doctor.
  • Week 3: How To Talk To Your Doctor About Incontinence
  • Week 4: Your Guide To Treatment Options.

BE STRONG Classes. 

Our BE STRONG classes are designed to show you the many benefits of maintaining a strong and healthy pelvic floor. All of our classes are taught by Pelvic Floor Specialists and are a great way for you to learn more about this vital group of muscles. Find one in your area!

How You Can Get Involved

Follow Us On Facebook and Twitter – and help us raise awareness! 

Not only will you be able to follow along with everything that’s happening this month, you can help us raise awareness by liking and sharing our posts. Better yet – post our Bladder Health Facts to your own pages! Be sure to tag us with the hashtags #LifeWithoutLeaks and #BHealth!

Make A Donation To NAFC. 

We love doing what we do. And we make a pretty big impact, reaching over 1,000,000 people each year who need our help.

But we can’t do it alone.

Support from our readers is the only way we’re able to continue offering the education and community we’ve created on nafc.org. It’s how we’re able to continue creating free courses for your local communities. It’s how we’re able to advocate for patients in home and at assisted care facilities for quality incontinence supplies. It’s how we provide thousands of free educational brochures to patients looking for help. And it’s how we are able to increase the awareness of the impact of incontinence on those it touches. Donate today to help us ensure everyone has access to these free materials, and can learn how to live a #LifeWithoutLeaks.

Start A Fundraiser On Facebook! 

We know sometimes it’s hard to give. But if you’re passionate about our cause and want to help, consider setting up a fundraiser for us on Facebook. It’s super easy to do and all the funds come straight to NAFC. Read our step-by-step instructions on how to do it here.  With #GivingTuesday coming up on the 28th of this month, it’s a great time to get this going.

So there you have it!  We hope you’ll follow along with us this month to learn more about incontinence and help support us throughout the month to increase awareness of Bladder Health! 

Sincerely,

The National Association For Continence

It's Never Too Late To Take Charge Of Your Health

it's never too late to take charge of your health and incontinence

We’re wrapping up Women’s Health Month this week and we wanted to leave you with just one thought. If you take away anything from this past month, it should be this: 

No matter what your age, it’s never too late to seek help for incontinence.

Whether you are a new Mom in your 20’s or 30’s, or have just finished menopause, there are treatments available that can help you. Talk to your doctor and formulate a plan of action. Don’t be embarrassed – you certainly are not the first woman to discuss bladder or bowel health conditions with your doctor and you won’t be the last. They’re there to help you. And if, for some reason, they do brush you off, or attribute your bladder leakage to aging, then we have news for you: it’s time to get a new doctor. Because living with bladder leakage is really no way to live, no matter what age you happen to be. And if you've looked around this site at all, you know that there are many ways to treat leaks.

Take charge of your health and learn how to live a life without leaks!

Need some inspiration from others like you? Head on over to our message boards. You’ll find a supportive and open community to share tips, struggles and personal stories.

Staying Young With A Positive Outlook

stay young with a positive outlook!

Getting older is inevitable. It will happen to us all at one point, but just because we’re all aging doesn’t mean our life has to decline. The power of positivity is a real thing, and research shows that those who are optimistic about getting older, and who follow the mantra “you’re only as old as you feel” actually do fare better than those who are more likely to attribute aches and pain to old age.

In a study from the Journal of American Medical Association, researchers looked at the effects of positive age stereotypes to see what effect it had on helping people recover from certain disabilities. Participants (aged 70 years or older) were asked to relay 5 words or phrases that came to mind when they thought of old people. None of the participants had a disability prior to the initial questioning, but they did experience at least one month of disability during the 11-year follow up. The people who had given more positive age stereotypes were 44% more likely to fully recover from severe disability and were able to perform daily activities better as they aged than those with negative age stereotypes.

Positive thinking does matter. Even as we age, we are still in control of our own life. How we view it, and our health, make a big difference.  Nothing could be truer when considering a condition like incontinence. At NAFC, we hear from people all the time who think incontinence is simply a part of getting older. They’ve already resigned themselves to the fact that it will happen and there is nothing that can be done. But that is simply not true. (And if you follow this blog we hope you know that by now!) Lifestyle changes, medication, simple medical procedures, and even surgery can often correct the problem (or at least greatly improve the symptoms).  Don’t let your health decline simply because you’re marking another year on the calendar. Take charge of your wellbeing and attack any health concerns head on now, to enjoy a long and happy life.

Here’s a quick exercise to try each day.

Close your eyes and think of a time when you were at your optimal health. Think of your vibrancy at that age, your energy, how you felt. Now think of yourself as that age – not just in this exercise, but throughout your day. Associate yourself with that vibrant, younger version in everything you do. And, if research is correct, you may just start noticing the difference!

Have some tips to share on how you “think yourself young”? Share them in the comments below!

Coming Out Of The Closet About Pelvic Organ Prolapse

This is a guest post from Betty Heath, of The Rejoicing Soul.

During the past twelve years I have shared much of my life’s journey with you. Well, today I am coming out of the closet.  Stunning isn’t it? I was recently diagnosed with Pelvic Organ Prolapse. How many of you can identify with me? The current estimate of the number of women in the U.S. with this condition is approximately 4.3 million. According to a recent study by the World Health Organization guestimates indicate that there are 36 million women world-wide with this condition. The reality is that it is difficult to know what the real numbers are because women are reluctant to be talk about it or be treated for it.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) is quite common among today’s female population. Many women have the symptoms but because they are embarrassed to discuss them with anyone they suffer in silence.  POP can occur when the pelvic floor muscles weaken and one or more organs shift out into the vaginal canal and even bulge outside of the body.

My journey with POP began sometime in the spring of 2016. I began having symptoms of POP which include pressure, pain and/or fullness in vagina or rectum or both; sensation of ‘your insides falling out’; bulging in the vagina; severe back pain and incontinence. Every time I went for a walk or even sneezed I thought my insides were going to fall right out onto the ground. I began staying home more often and said little about it to my friends. At first I attributed these symptoms to old age and laughed them off. After all, I am approaching the ripe old age of 80. We hear and see so many TV ads regarding incontinence and because the causes are never addressed we become oblivious to what they might be.

This past fall I finally decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life worrying about my insides falling out and was tired of dealing with this issue so I made an appointment with a gynecologist. After the initial exam I was referred to Dr. Alexander Shapiro who is a specialist gyn/urologist in Denver. That exam took place in early December and was one hour and thirty minutes.

After the exam I told him I never dreamed I would be sitting in a gyn/urologist office at the age of 79. He smiled and replied, “We do have ways to keep popping up in your lives, don’t we.”  I then told him this was the most disgusting, gross thing that has ever happened to me. He said, “Right now your insides are a total mess. This is a very intimate surgery and is a major surgery. This is who you are right now and you can’t allow this to define your life. I promise you I can repair the damage and relieve the pain and discomfort”.

The four-hour surgery took place on Monday, January 30. I told my physician that most women my age are having face lifts and here I was having a butt-lift. I went home Tuesday and Wednesday as I was having breakfast I suddenly realized that the fullness/pressure feeling and the back pain I had prior to surgery were totally gone. Oh, what a relief it is. I cried tears of joy. I’ve experienced minimal pain with this surgery.

Today, if you are a woman reading this (or a man who has a woman in your life with this condition) I urge you to make an appointment to at least talk with your physician about your problem. There is help and hope for women with POP. New treatment options evolve daily to control, improve and repair this cryptic health condition.

Join with me in taking Pelvic Organ Prolapse out of the closet and make it common knowledge for women of all ages. Don’t allow this condition to define who you are or how you live your life.  Don’t wait! Call for your appointment today.

Betty Heath
Betty Heath

About The Author:  Betty Heath lives in Colorado with her husband. She is “retired from work, but not from living”, and has a weekly column called “As I See It”, which appears each Sunday in the Longmont Times-Call, owned by the Denver Post. She enjoys writing, cooking, gardening, and quilting. Betty also volunteers in the St. Vrain Valley School District, helping students learn how to write from their heart. For the past six years, she and her husband have volunteered as Santa and Mrs. Claus for the Holiday Festival in the Carbon Valley. You can read more from Betty at her blog, The Rejoicing Soul.

The Mama Body: Physical Therapy During And After Pregnancy

 Physical Therapy During And After Pregnancy

A Guest Blog by Lizanne Pastore PT, MA, COMT

Eighty percent of the bodily changes occurring during pregnancy happen in the first trimester!  Isn’t that astounding?  A woman’s body must adjust quickly to a 40% increase in fluid volume, increased heart and respiratory rates and myriad other changes that may affect us in different ways.  The fluid volume increase, for example, can make our connective tissues weaker—our tendons can get a little mushy and our nerves and blood vessels a bit softer.  This extra fluid and tissue weakening makes us more prone to things like leg swelling, varicosities, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or sciatica.  

The hormonal changes in pregnancy play a big role in our metabolism, mood, memory and, of course, ligamentous laxity.  Some pregnant women experience instability not only in the pelvis and hips, but also in the joints of the spine, elbows, and wrists.  Our musculoskeletal system is taxed by these changes even before the baby gets very big.  Then, as baby grows, we might begin seeing rectus abdominis separation (“diastasis recti,”) spinal problems from posture and center of gravity changes, even rib dysfunction as the ribs are forced out and up to make room for belly.  Foot pain from falling arches from the sudden weight gain can occur, and on and on. 

In the pelvic girdle, there is a list of other maladies that can be downright scary to a pregnant or postpartum mama.  And most women are not warned about these potential problems.   Pelvic girdle pain manifesting as coccyx, pubic or sacroiliac joint pain; groin or hip pain; pelvic muscle or nerve pain; plus urinary or fecal incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse are some of the more common things occurring during or after pregnancy. 

After birth, as Mom is busy caring for her newborn and any other children at home—schlepping heavy car seats, strollers, laundry baskets, breastfeeding through the day and night, lifting ever-heavier babies into and out of cribs—she wonders why everything hurts, or why she feels a clicking in her pelvic bones when she lifts her leg!  Well, she is busy performing exceedingly challenging tasks with a sub-optimal musculo-skeletal-neural system (not to mention sleep deprivation!) 

It is well documented that both pregnancy and vaginal birth increases a woman’s risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse or becoming incontinent later in life.  And many women think that leaking during or after birth is “normal” because their friends, moms, aunts, and sisters leaked, plus there are 20 different brands of incontinence pads to choose from in the drugstore, so it “must” be normal.   

But this is wrong; leaking and pelvic organ prolapse is common, but not normal or OK.   The same holds true for back or pelvic pain.  Sure pregnancy puts demands on our bodies, but there is no reason to “put up” with pain, leaking, prolapse, numb hands or legs!  There is a health professional who knows all about this—a physical therapist specially trained in women’s health issues and the pelvic floor.  These PT’s are special – they understand the pregnant and postpartum body and are experts in negotiating a path to health and strength for women with special concerns.

After an initial assessment, which often includes a thorough pelvic muscle exam and possibly even a biofeedback analysis, the woman is prescribed a home program.  This program may include a combination of postural or corrective exercises, motor training or strengthening exercises, bladder and bowel re-training, special instruction to change movement strategies to limit stressors on the body, and even self-care techniques for pain or prolapse, such as self massage for constipation, or gentle inversions for prolapse. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing if every pregnant woman and new mama could have a visit with a PT like this?  Guess what – they can!  If you are reading this article and are pregnant talk about this option with your doctor.  And if you have friends, sisters, aunts and co-workers who might be pregnant or new moms, talk to them about it.  Tell them to ask their doctors for a referral to woman’s health physical therapist!  

Need help finding a qualified PT? Visit the NAFC Specialist Locator to find one in your area.

About the author:  A physical therapist for 29 years, Lizanne has specialized in treating women and men with complex pelvic floor and pelvic girdle issues since 2005.  She has worked primarily in San Francisco and the Bay Area, running a successful private practice for the past 18 years. She writes, lectures, and teaches about pelvic health at the professional and community levels and is currently a board member of the NAFC.