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.

Patient Perspective: The Shame Of Incontinence Is Real

Patient Perspective: The Shame And Embarrassment Of Incontinence Is Real

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

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

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

Bradley M., Nashville, TN

Patient Perspective: How Acknowledging My Pelvic Floor Changed My Life

How Acknowledging My Pelvic Floor Changed My Life. Pelvic Strengthening

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

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

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

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

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

Kimberly V., Englewood, CO

Patient Perspective: Why I No Longer Mind Wearing Adult Diapers

Patient Perspective: Why I No Longer Mind Wearing Adult Diapers.

Patient Perspective: Why I No Longer Mind Wearing Adult Diapers.

I’m a 48-year old man, and I wear adult absorbent briefs. Every day, every night. The problem started when I was around 40. I had always had some nighttime bedwetting issues, but they were rare and something I managed for most of my life with waterproof bedding.

But after I turned 40, I noticed I was having more and more frequent episodes at night. I tried wearing absorbent pads, but they still leaked, causing me to have to change my bed sheets almost 4 times a week. Then the problem started happening during the day – I just couldn’t hold it in long enough to make it to the bathroom.

I saw three doctors, and none of them could find a specific diagnosis for me to explain why I was having this problem. I spent at least a year in denial – foregoing protection because I was embarrassed, but running to the bathroom more often than I wanted. I brought extra clothes with me to work and to social functions “just in case”, and soon, started to limit outings as much as I could because I couldn’t face the prospect of having an accident in front of my family and friends.

I finally realized that if I wanted any semblance of a normal life, I needed to use protection. I did my research and tried out several types of absorbent products to find something that worked for me. (Turns out I use absorbent briefs for day and night, although my nighttime briefs are thicker for extra protection.) 

It used to bother me that I had to wear “diapers” but now, I don’t think about it at all. I’d rather know I am protected vs. having an accident in public. If you struggle with bladder leakage, just bite the bullet and find a product that works for you. In the end, you’ll be so relieved to know that “you’re covered”, and most people won’t even know you are wearing extra protection.

Mike W., Pensacola, FL

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

Patient Perspective - Teen Bedwetting

Patient Perspective - Teen Bedwetting

Patient Perspective - Teen Bedwetting

I’m sharing this story as an adult, but it is really about my childhood. I suffered from bedwetting when I was young and it lasted until I was almost a teenager.  I was lucky enough to have very supportive parents, but that didn’t stop the shame I felt every time it happened. It never felt like a big deal until I was around 7. Then I started getting invited to sleep overs, which were always very stressful for me. I was constantly scared of wetting the bed at someone else’s house and of my friends learning my secret. I started to turn down invitations simply because of my fear, and the problem began to effect me emotionally. Luckily, my bedwetting slowed down a lot after I was around 9, but I still had an occasional accident through age 12.

I’m not sure what I would have done I hadn’t had such wonderful parents to help me through it. They never made me feel bad about it, and always were as discreet as possible when helping me clean up after an accident. Their support took a lot of the pressure off of me, which I think would have only added to my problem back then. I now have a 3-year old myself, and, knowing that they could possibly experience prolonged bedwetting (after all – it is hereditary) shows me how stressful it can be for a parent. If you are a parent of a young child reading this, please take this one thing away:  Support your child, even if their problem has caused you countless sleepless nights, extra loads of laundry, and profound frustrations. I can tell you first-hand that it likely pales in comparison to the shame they’ve felt themselves. And the support and understanding you can give to them during this time will do wonders for their self-esteem and sense of wellbeing. They will remember it forever – I know I have.

Terry B., Salt Lake City, Utah

Need a solution for nighttime bedwetting? Try NAFC's Bedwetting Kit, available here.

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.

But You Look So Good

A Guest Blog Post from Alice Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am not MS, by Alice Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

Grieve the changes. Adjust expectations. Live your life. 

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

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

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me About Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

A Guest Blog By Sally Connor

I am a 38-year old woman, and I am angry. Angry that my body has changed so much since I’ve had children, angry that I developed a prolapsed bladder after the birth of my first son, angry that I can no longer run the way I used to without making several trips to the bathroom, or worse, wetting myself. I am angry with my doctors for not telling me that this may be a side effect of pregnancy and that there were steps I could have taken to prevent it. I’m angry with other women for not telling me that it has happened to them. I am angry for my sheer ignorance of the situation until it happened to me. But more than anything, I am angry that no one knows any of this because in our society, it feels too embarrassing to really talk about.

When we are young, we don’t think about these things. Before I had children, I don’t think that I ever even gave the pelvic floor much thought. Quite frankly, I didn’t even know what it was.  Here is what I didn’t know:  That the pelvic floor muscles act as a basket, supporting your bladder, uterus, and rectum. It is also connected to and supported by your deepest core muscles – your transverse abdominus (below the ‘six pack’ abs) and your multifidus (the tiny muscles that support the spine), and is affected by almost every movement you make.  The pelvic floor, what I now refer to as the epicenter of my body, is called upon every time you sit, stand, squat, walk, and even breathe. 

So I ask, why is it that we don’t hear more about this vital web of muscles? Why are we kept in the dark until it is too late? Because, really, much of this can usually be prevented. The pelvic floor, just like any other muscle in the body, can be strengthened and trained. With regular exercise, the pelvic floor and the supporting muscles around it can provide a strong foundation for continence for your entire life. But, like any other muscle, if it is already in a weakened state, and then becomes traumatized by something like childbirth, well, the damage is done. 

That is the case with prolapse. You can try to repair it, and may see marked improvement through physical therapy, or even surgery, but once the damage is done, it is done. 

It doesn’t mean that there is no hope though. I know this. I have seen great improvement in my symptoms and am grateful to have had access to a very skilled physical therapist who was able to show me how to strengthen things up ‘down there’. But, I still do experience some symptoms and I can’t help wonder if things would be the same had I been more aware of this muscle and what I should have been doing to keep it strong prior to and during pregnancy. 

With over 25 million Americans experiencing incontinence, I am baffled that the issue is not publically talked about more often. It is estimated that about 40% of women will experience prolapse at some point in their life. When will we decide that these conditions deserve attention? Talking about them would encourage more people to get help, and, maybe even more importantly, take steps to prevent it. 

Instead, the silence only encourages the shame, embarrassment, and isolation that many people with incontinence experience.  It does nothing to help those who are experiencing the issue to know there are ways to treat it.  Nor does it educate those who have not experienced it to know that this is something that should be considered. Until we can all be more open and recognize that this is a problem worth talking about (shouting about!), we will be a society that continues to allow it’s people to ‘quietly manage their symptoms’ instead of really preventing or treating them. 

So please, speak up about your incontinence, your prolapse, or any other pelvic floor issue you may have. While it may be common, it’s not normal, and is nothing that anyone should have to suffer with in silence.

About the author:  Sally Connor is a mother, wife, entrepreneur, and homemaker who suffered a prolapse after giving birth to her son. She has refused to let this symptom rule her life and strives to increase awareness of pelvic floor issues and what women can do about them by simply talking more about the issue.  She hopes that one day pelvic floor issues and incontinence will be a less taboo subject.

All I Want For Christmas Is A Dry Bed

My Story: Living With Bedwetting

My name is Sandy, and I wet the bed.  Not every night, but at least twice a week.  Sometimes, the effect is minimal – just a small leak in my underwear as I’m racing to make it to the restroom.  Other times though, well, let’s just say I’ve started sleeping on a waterproof pad at night.

Bedwetting as an adult is one of the most embarrassing things I have gone through.  I didn’t always suffer from this problem, but a weakened pelvic floor seems to be my “gift” after birthing 2 kids.  My husband is very supportive, but I can tell that it bothers him, too.  The constant laundering of bedclothes, waking up occasionally to wetness – it takes its toll emotionally, physically, and financially.  Not only do we both lose sleep on these nights, we have spent a small fortune trying to manage the condition.  Waterproof pads, disposable adult diapers and absorbent products, bedwetting alarms – we’ve tried them all and while they all have their varying degrees of success, it doesn’t really cure the problem.  I still wet the bed.

And yet, even as bedwetting has cost me sleep, money, and my dignity, I have waited years to see a doctor.  I guess I’ve just always felt it was embarrassing enough to share it with my husband, let alone someone I don’t really know very well.  So I lived in a silent hell for the past few years, often trying to hide it from my husband as much as I am able to, and praying each night that it will be a dry one. 

But I’m through with wishing and hoping.  I finally summoned the courage to make an appointment with a urologist to talk about this problem, and guess what…..HE WAS NOT PHASED IN THE LEAST!  He told me that he sees patients like me all the time and there are actually many options available to bedwetters, depending on the cause of their condition.  Telling him was a huge weight off my shoulders too – finally sharing this with someone else and having them understand, plus hearing that there are others like me was a big relief.  And, for once I have hope that there may be something that I can do to get my condition under control, which is truly empowering.

While he outlined many types of treatments I could try, I’m starting with physical therapy to hopefully regain some of the muscle control that I have lost over the years from childbirth.  And if that doesn’t work, there are medications, and even surgery that may help.  I feel so much more confident now that I have taken action and am on a path to fix my problem.  And while I am definitely not there yet, I am hopeful that the new year will bring what I want most – a dry bed.

Millions of Americans live with adult bedwetting.  It is an embarrassing and sometimes debilitating condition for many.  But there are treatment options available.  Talk to a specialist to learn more about what you can do to treat this issue and get your life back.  Need help finding a specialist near you?  Visit the NAFC Specialist Locator to find one in your area.

Why You Should Not Be Afraid To See A Physical Therapist For Your Incontinence

Don't Be Afraid To See A Physical Therapist For Incontinence

I’m 38 years old, and I have a prolapsed bladder.  I discovered it after the birth of my first son, and needless to say, it was alarming.  I hadn’t even realized something like this could happen, yet there I was, 6 weeks post-partum at my doctor’s office, with him confirming that, yep, I had a stage 2 cystocele.  I was devastated.  What did this mean?  How would I be able to keep up with my son?  Would it affect me having another child?  Would I experience incontinence because of this?

Determined not to let this problem control my life, I sought out the help of a physical therapist specialized in women’s health.  (Yes, these people exist!)  I’m sure that I was nervous before my appointment, but I shouldn’t have been.  Looking back, all I remember is the understanding, help and wonderful instruction my therapist provided me during this time.  She walked me through my own anatomy, showed me how my muscles all work together to support the pelvic floor, and taught me moves that I could do on my own to help “strengthen things up down there”.  She was my teacher and my cheerleader, who gave me encouragement when I needed it most and helped push me to work hard to see improvements.

And I did improve.  Partly from just the natural recovery process after giving birth, but also due to the help from my weekly sessions with my PT.  Through her I have a much greater understanding of how my pelvic floor and supporting muscles work together and how to keep them strong.  Although I still do have a prolapse (it will never really go away), due to regular exercise that I learned from my PT, it rarely bothers me and I do not experience any incontinence.  I’ve even started running again! 

What I’d like you to take away from my story is this:  If you are experiencing some type of incontinence – no matter what the cause – a trained Physical Therapist can help you.  The exercises and moves that they will teach you may help you alleviate many of the symptoms you experience, and, regardless of treatment, truly should be a part of any plan – whether you are managing with medication, absorbent pads, or even thinking about surgery in the future. 

BE STRONG!  Take control of your life!  Don’t let a prolapse or your incontinence dictate how you live. 

Ready to take the plunge but need help finding a Physical Therapist?  Check out the NAFC Specialist Locator and make your appointment today! 

Pessaries And Non-Surgical Options For Prolapse Treatment

Pessaries and Non-surgical options for prolapse treatment

I always wanted a large family.  After giving birth to and raising 4 children, I think I’ve pretty much fulfilled that dream.  My family is everything that I expected it would be.  What I never expected, however, was to have a prolapsed bladder.

I discovered it when I turned 63.  I had a feeling of heaviness “down there” for a while, but didn’t really think anything of it. I experienced a few accidents in the months before my birthday but thought they were just that – accidents. I was wrong. I went to the doctor for my usual check up, tried to explain what I was experiencing, and he told me I may have a prolapse. Prolapse is when the muscles supporting your bladder, rectum and uterus weaken. This weakening can cause your organs to fall into or through the opening of the vagina. This can happen to any woman with or without vaginal childbirth, but women who have had strain on their vaginal muscles (ahem, birthing 4 children) are at greater risk. After an examination, my doctor diagnosed me with a cystocele, or a prolapsed bladder.

At first I was horrified – the thought of an organ protruding, even slightly, sounded appalling.  What would this mean?  How would it affect my day-to-day life? Would things progress to a level greater than what I was already experiencing? ? 

Luckily for me, my prolapse is mild.  My doctor told me that as long as my symptoms were not causing me much harm, surgery was likely not necessary.  Some pelvic organ prolapse (POP) will improve on its own through watchful waiting, although my doctor said it is not possible to identify whose POP will improve with time. A common treatment option for those who do not want or need surgery is a pessary.

Pessaries are silicon devices that come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are placed in the vagina to provide support to the pelvic organs. Because each woman is different, the pessaries need to be fitted to the individual.  I decided to give it a try and was fitted three different times before the final size was decided.  I’ve had it in for 3 months so far and it is comfortable and seems to be treating the feeling of heaviness I had been experiencing very well.  It does require some upkeep and needs to be removed and cleaned on a regular basis, however this is easy to do and even if you have trouble, you can have the pessary removed and regularly cleaned by your provider. 

In addition to my pessary, my doctor also prescribed a vaginal estrogen.  This helps lubricate the area and reduce the risk of irritation or ulceration.  It also reduces the risk of getting a urinary tract infection.

Never in a million years did I think this would happen to me – I didn’t even really know it was possible to be honest. But thanks to my pessary, I’m able to easily manage my symptoms and live my life the way I want to.

Your Guide To Eating During The Holidays For A Healthy Bladder

Eating Well To Maintain Good Bladder Health

The holidays are well upon us, and for many, this means an influx of all types of delicious holiday food and drinks.  Maintaining healthy eating habits is always at the top of mind for my family and me, but during the holidays, it’s sometimes easy to let our guard down.  Sneaking an extra cookie from the batch made for my son’s class treats, having that extra glass of wine at the holiday Christmas party – it can all add up.  And if you have symptoms of Overactive Bladder (OAB), as I do, these little extras can make them even worse and end up putting an unwanted damper on the holiday season.

At my last appointment, I asked my physician for some tips on how to best manage my diet during the holidays to ensure that I’m not running to the toilet every five minutes.  She told me that the best rule of thumb is to try to stick to your normal eating plan as much as possible.  “After all”, she said, “you probably already have a good idea of what types of foods irritate your bladder and increase your symptoms.” (Ahem, chocolate, I’m looking at you.)  So, keep it simple and try to stay the course.  However, she said, if you must indulge (it is the holidays after all), do so sparingly.  And try to avoid the below foods as much as possible, since they are known bladder irritants.

Alcohol. 

That glass of wine or champagne may seem like a good idea, but alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it creates additional urine in the bladder.  This can cause an increase in urge incontinence, and may also trigger symptoms of overactive bladder.

Coffee and tea. 

Like alcohol, coffee and tea act as diuretics, causing more frequent trips to the restroom.  In addition, they contain caffeine, which can irritate the bladder and create stronger urges.  Limit coffee and tea as much as possible. (I know, I know – I am cringing as I type this at 5 am!)

Soda and fizzy drinks.  

These drinks usually have caffeine, as well as carbonation, which should both be avoided.  In addition, many of them contain artificial sweeteners, which are believed to be a bladder irritant.

Chocolate. 

Unfortunately, chocolate contains caffeine, which may cause bladder irritation.  (I had to use a little restraint to not shout at my doctor for this one.)

Sugar.

While sugary treats may be difficult to avoid around the holidays, you should do your best to limit things like cakes, cookies, and candy.  My doctor explained that sugar –even in inconspicuous forms like honey – can irritate the bladder.  If you must indulge, try to do so sparingly and try to avoid foods containing artificial sweeteners.  This can be a bummer around the holidays, when delicious treats abound, but look at it this way – I just gave you an alibi to avoid your Aunt Marta’s fruitcake this year.  You’re welcome.

Spicy foods.  

Things like curries or many spicy ethnic foods can irritate the bladder and increase symptoms of OAB and incontinence.  Try your best to avoid them.

Acidic foods.

Increased acid in things like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and cranberries can worsen bladder control.

Processed foods. 

Many processed foods contain artificial flavors and preservatives that can irritate the bladder and worsen incontinence symptoms.

I’ve been pretty good so far this season.  Not only are the above tips helping to keep my bladder healthy and avoid accidents, they are also helping me keep my weight in check – something that I think we all struggle with during the holidays. My doctor said this is important too, since increased weight gain can also contribute to a decrease in bladder control.  

Probably the best tip my doctor shared with me is to keep a food diary to track what I eat and to determine how it affects me.  I’ve been at it for a couple of weeks now and it has really helped me identify my “problem areas”.  Not only that, it also keeps me honest – no more stealing a handful of M&M’s from the candy dish as I walk past it.  And while the temptation is sometimes hard to pass up, knowing that it’s helping me stay dry makes it worth it.  And just think, come January, when everyone else is trying to work off those extra pounds they accumulated during the holidays, I’ll already be one step ahead of the game. 

Do you have any diet tips for the holidays?

How I Survive Traveling With Incontinence (and Three Kids)

How I Survive Traveling With Incontinence

I’ve never been one of those moms who can fly by the seat of her pants and wing it. Especially when traveling.  A mother of 3 kids, I have to be prepared – always.  My 3 year old has an accident?  I’ve got it covered with an extra change of clothes.  My 5 year old decides to throw a tantrum mid-flight?  The iPad is completely stocked with games and movies to calm him down. My 6 month old begins wailing?  I’m like a ninja with her bottle – from bag to lips in two seconds flat.  Friends and family are often amazed at my level of preparedness – I’m a master, and I wear the badge proudly. 

When I developed Overactive Bladder (OAB) after the birth of my second child, my philosophy was no different.  I plan and prepare for the unexpected for myself, just as I would my children.  As the holidays approach I’m looking forward to a trip back home to see my family.  Our whole kit and caboodle are going to be coming along for the ride and you can bet that a little OAB is not going to stop me from having a fabulous time. 

So, in case anyone else may be suffering from OAB or incontinence, here are my top 7 tips to help you make it to your destination with ease.  

1. Plan ahead and know your route.

If you are driving to your location, you have the advantage of being able to stop relatively easily.  Plan your route ahead of time and determine rest stops to make regular bathroom breaks.  This will help you avoid waiting too long to relieve yourself, which could result in an accident.

If you’re flying, try to book your seat on the isle if possible, and as close to the restroom as you can.  This will ensure you have easy access in the event you need to get to a restroom quickly.

2. Leave enough time for extra stops. 

Be sure to leave early, and plan to make at least a few extra stops.  Whether you are traveling by car, or flying, it pays to have some time built in for emergencies. 

3. Bring along an extra change of clothes.

In the event you do have an accident, having an extra pair of clothes handy will save you from embarrassment, and discomfort for the rest of your trip.  I know, I know – we moms already have enough to pack with all our kids stuff.  But trust me when I say you don’t want to be dealing with a screaming toddler and wet pants for the second half of your flight.  If you are flying, be sure to pack these in your carryon so you have them with you at all times.  It’s also a good idea to bring along an extra ziplock bag for any soiled clothing.  Additionally, hand wipes and an antibacterial cleansing product will keep you feeling clean and fresh.

4. Remember all your supplies.

This list will vary depending on what you normally use and how severe your incontinence is.  But, it’s always a good idea to carry along a few extra disposable pads or underwear.  (And if you’re flying, wearing a pad “just in case”, even if you normally don’t wear one, can be a life-saver as well.)  Pack some of these in your carryon too, in the event that your luggage gets lost, or you experience delays at the gate. Also think about what you will need when you arrive at your destination.  Depending on your accommodations, bed protection, deodorized liners for disposal of products, sanitizing or cleansing products and lotions may also be useful.

5. Limit liquids a few hours before your trip.

While it’s never a good idea to completely avoid liquids, limiting them a couple of hours before you depart may help you get through the first leg of your trip a bit easier.  It’s also a good idea to pass on the beverage cart if you’re flying, in order to avoid having to make an extra trip (or 2!) to the restroom.

6. Look into medications to manage your bladder.

If you feel that absorbent products alone are not enough to keep you from having an accident while traveling, you may want to ask your doctor about any potential medications that he or she may recommend.  Be sure to do this well in advance of your trip, since some medications, like those indicated for overactive bladder, can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to become effective.

7. Request a note from your doctor with a list of any approved medication or special instructions that may be useful to you when flying.

Flying with medications can be made easier if you have a note from your doctor.  Additionally, if you have any special medical conditions, a doctor’s note with special instructions may help you when asking for special requests (like preferred seating on planes, priority boarding, etc.).

I can’t wait to spend the holidays with my family this year.  And, though my OAB may present a little extra challenge, I know that with the above plan I’ll be sailing through the airport effortlessly.  Well, as effortlessly as you can with three kids. And a husband. So, four kids really.