Urinary Incontinence: Urology Awareness Month 2021
September is Urology awareness month, hosted by the Urology Foundation to raise awareness and money for training and research into different urological conditions. They also want to break down the stigma that surrounds these conditions. It’s estimated that 1 in 2 of us will be affected by a urological condition in our lifetime. this years theme is incontinence, a common but debilitating condition that affects so many yet is rarely spoken openly about.
What does urology mean?
Urology is the section of medicine and physiology concerned with the function and disorders of the urinary system which includes the kidneys, bladder, urethra, prostate and the male reproductive system.
Common vaginal conditions include bladder cancer, prostate cancer, penile and testicular cancer, renal cancer, urinary incontinence, urinary tract infection and lower urinary tract symptoms.
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.
Types of urinary incontinence
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’.
Causes of urinary incontinence
As well as weak pelvic muscles, urinary incontinence can 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.
Leaking is affecting my mental health
Leaking urine is a cause of deep embarrassment and stigma for many women especially after having children. Like we 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 is 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.
If you are struggling with incontinence, or other symptoms of a weak pelvic floor you are not alone. If you need support or don’t feel comfortable talking to your doctor yet then please consider joining our community here at Secret Whispers by following us on Instagram (@secretwhispersuk), joining our private Facebook group full of like minded 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.
How to get involved with Urology Awareness Month
Talk and raise awareness
Try and talk about urology problems with your loved ones, there's no shame in incontinence or any other urological complaint. There is a big stigma surrounding these types of health conditions so we need to talk about them! You never know who is struggling in silence with urinary incontinence or other urological problem. Share articles, blogs (you could start by sharing this blog!) and information on social media to spread awareness.
If you want to help to The Urology Foundation's works to improve care and treatment for urological conditions then why not start a fundraiser? The Step Up For TUF fundraiser see you get sponsored to virtually climb a building or if you're feeling brave, a mountain! If that's not your speed then why not organise a sponsored walk, run or bake sale and show your support.
We hope you enjoyed this blog, why not check out "It feels like something is falling out my vagina. Have I got a prolapse? Signs and symptoms explained.
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