Sometimes I laugh so hard the tears run down my leg
Today marks World Health Day which has been celebrated every year since 1950. The World Health Organisation are the hosts and sponsors of this yearly event which aims to bring awareness to global health issues. Here at Secret Whispers, we want to bring awareness to a health issue that’s close to our and many others hearts, urinary incontinence.
Leaking urine is a topic not many like talking about yet it affects so many (the NHS estimates that there's as many as 6 million people in the UK alone who suffer with it to some degree).
Leakage issues are something that we have been led to believe is normal, especially in older age or after childbirth but this IS NOT TRUE. Urinary incontinence can lead to shame, embarrassment and a host of other mental health issues if left untreated (which is often the case as many of those who do suffer, suffer in silence).
It doesn’t need to be this way and if you are struggling with this alone or don’t feel comfortable talking to your doctor then please consider joining our community here at Secret Whispers by following us on Instagram (@secretwhispersuk), joining our private Facebook group full of likeminded and supportive women (Pelvic Floor education and Support for Women) or simply emailing us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or messaging us on our socials. We are here to listen in confidence, and maybe get you back on track to living a comfortable, confident and leak-free life.
What causes bladder leaks?
When you need to urinate, the bladder muscles tighten and urine is forced out through the urethra. At the same time, the muscles around your urethra relax to allow the stream of urine out the body. Leakage happens when the bladder muscles tighten suddenly and the urethra muscles aren't strong enough to stop the flow. This can happen when you sneeze, laugh, exercise or even when you're sleeping. You might leak a little or a lot each time.
While urinary incontinence can affect anyone, it disproportionally affects women (around twice as much) and this is because of our biology and the reproductive events we might go through. Pregnancy, childbirth and the menopause all put pressure on our bladder, urethra and the supporting muscles, like the pelvic floor. Weaking of the pelvic floor which is common during pregnancy and childbirth is a common cause of leakage. Urinary incontinence can also happen at any age but its more common in older women and this is thought to be down to the hormonal changes associated with the menopause.
Urinary incontinence can also be caused or worsened by other things like;
- Being overweight – Extra weight puts pressure on the bladder and weakens the supporting muscles.
- Constipation – The straining associated with constipation can weaken the muscles, especially the pelvic floor.
- Nerve damage – Damaged nerves can send false signals to the bladder tricking your body into releasing urine.
- Medication – Medication can sometimes cause short-term urinary incontinence as they act as a diuretic. Symptoms usually ease after the medication has been stopped.
Are there different types of leaking?
Yes there are, lets outline the differences between them;
- Stress incontinence – This is the most common type of urinary incontinence experienced and is caused by an increase of stress on the bladder and urethra. This stress can be caused by a weak pelvic floor, which means your bladder and urethra have to work harder than they normally would. Leaking when coughing, sneezing or laughing are tell-tale signs of stress incontinence.
- Urge incontinence – Otherwise known as an overactive bladder, urge incontinence causes strong and sudden urges to urinate. This usually means you don’t have time to make it to the toilet and when you get there you don’t wee much. This usually happens more than 6-8 times a day.
It's also possible to struggle with both types and this is known as ‘mixed incontinence’.
Leaking is affecting my mental health
Leaking urine is a cause of deep embarrassment and stigma for many women especially after having children. Like mentioned at the start of today's blog, leaking urine after having a baby has been widely accepted as ‘normal’ by our society. This is completely false and the acceptance of it is harmful to the next generation of expectant and new mothers. Women with urinary incontinence issues after birth are nearly twice as likely to develop post-natal depression compared to those who don’t. This a terrifying statistic that isn't talked about enough and so many women are suffering alone. With proper management and regular pelvic floor exercise, leakage during pregnancy and after birth should not be something you need to worry about and in most cases can be avoided.
Just to reiterate what was said at the start of today's blog, you don’t need to suffer in silence and if you are struggling with this alone or don’t feel comfortable talking to your doctor then please consider joining our community here at Secret Whispers by following us on Instagram (@secretwhispersuk), joining our private Facebook group full of likeminded and supportive women (Pelvic Floor education and Support for Women) or simply emailing us (email@example.com) or messaging us on our socials. We are here to listen in confidence and maybe get you back on track to living a comfortable, confident and leak-free life.
How can I avoid urinary incontinence?
You should always consult a doctor for any health issues but there are steps you can take on your own, let's look at them now;
- Kegel exercises – Those with stress incontinence might find that strengthening their pelvic floor with Kegel exercises will help ease symptoms of incontinence. Strengthening his muscle will mean there's less stress on the bladder and urethra. Why not try our 6 Step Pelvic Floor Exercise Kit to help you along?
- Bladder training – Bladder training can be helpful for some people with urinary incontinence. Things like setting times when you use the toilet every day can help retrain your body to a healthier toilet schedule.
- Loosing extra weight – Shedding a few extra pounds is never a bad idea but it could help bladder problems by reducing the amount of stress there is on the bladder itself and the urethra.
- Treating constipation – the straining associated with constipation can weaken the muscles and lead to leakage issues. By treating the constipation, you reduce this straining and subsequent weakening. AND, as we always talk about - use a stool when doing a poo! Protect your pelvic floor.
Bladder leaks are an extremely common experience, especially amongst women. There are people's secret shame that they don’t talk to anyone about, which mean people suffer in silence. It can be very detrimental to people's mental health, especially new mothers where leaking can cause the likelihood of post-natal depression to sky rocket. It really doesn’t have to be this way because you know what they say, a problem shared is a problem halved and you are welcome anytime to share your problems with us.
https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/urinary-incontinence https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110620103941.htm https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/kidneys-bladder-and-prostate/urinary-incontinence#:~:text=About%20urinary%20incontinence,-Urinary%20incontinence%20is&text=It%20is%20a%20common%20problem,some%20degree%20of%20urinary%20incontinence.