Let’s stop holding it in
By Alison Lynch
Do pelvic floor exercises actually work? Should you try drinking less to minimise leaks? Can you just use sanitary products instead of incontinence pads? Despite the fact 1 in 3 women will experience a sensitive bladder in their lifetime, many of those affected are reluctant to talk about it openly, which can lead to confusion about how to manage symptoms.
We spoke to GP Dr Sarah Jarvis to help clear up the most common misconceptions.
Don’t: Confuse stress and urge incontinence
Dr Jarvis explains: “These are the two main kinds of incontinence and they’re fundamentally different, although many people have a combination of the two. Stress incontinence is where you experience leaks when you cough, sneeze etc. Urge incontinence (also known as an overactive bladder) is when you get a sudden overwhelming urge to wee even when your bladder isn’t full.”
Do: Go to your doctor
“Your doctor can diagnose your specific type of bladder weakness and offer lots of lifestyle advice to help you manage your symptoms. They can also refer you to a specialist physiotherapist, who can offer bladder retraining if you’ve got urge incontinence, or pelvic floor exercises to help with urge or stress incontinence.”
Don’t: Rely on sanitary towels
“A huge proportion of women who suffer from bladder leaks use sanitary products, which are designed for the regular flow of periods, but not for sudden bladder leaks. Instead, choose products which have been designed for a sensitive bladder to ensure the best protection,” Dr Jarvis advises. Always Discreet offers a range of products specifically designed to handle the thinner, faster flow of urine and to also neutralise any odours. They have a thin and absorbent core that turns liquid into gel, giving you the best comfort and protection possible.
Don’t: Restrict fluids
“If you have urge incontinence, you tend to go to the loo much more often. The natural temptation is to reduce your fluid intake to prevent this. But not drinking enough can lead to concentrated urine, which can actually irritate the bladder and make you more prone to needing to wee, as well as more likely to suffer urine infections.” So, continue to drink a balanced amount of fluids.
Do: Give pelvic floor exercises a chance
“You’ve tried pelvic floor exercises and you don’t think they work – think again! A surprising number of women either aren’t exercising the right muscles or aren’t doing their exercises often enough to have a real benefit. Doing pelvic floor exercises correctly and consistently, with help from a specialist physiotherapist if needed, can improve or cure symptoms in up to 6 out of 10 women. I advise women to set an alarm on their phone several times a day because you need to remember to do them.”
Do: Keep up low-impact exercise
“Keeping active is really important for your general muscle strength and tone. It will also help with weight maintenance and reducing constipation (which can exacerbate a sensitive bladder). However, you don’t want to do things like abdominal crunches, which can put your stomach muscles under a lot of pressure, because that can increase the risk of stress incontinence. Low impact and strengthening exercises – e.g. cycling, running, swimming – will all help muscle tone,” Dr Jarvis recommends. Most importantly, don’t let worry about leaks stop you staying active. Always Discreet liners and pads are super-absorbent, thin, comfortable and guaranteed to stay in place while you work out.
Don’t: Overdo the ‘safety’ wees
“This is a particularly bad idea for women with an overactive bladder. If you don’t fully expand your bladder, it gets less capable of holding fluid. One of the big issues for women with urge incontinence, is that they’ll often get the urge to go very frequently. They’ll rush to the loo because they’re terrified of a leak, but if they do that all the time, then they end up with a bladder that can’t cope with large volumes. By all means, do a wee if you’re going to be in the car for a length of time, or if you’re worried about not finding the loo, but when you’re at home, try and hold on and don’t get into the habit of going all the time because it can make it worse, rather than better.”
Don’t: Ignore the emotional impact
“Four out of five British women who don’t have a sensitive bladder, say they feel younger than their actual age. By comparison, 40% of women who experience frequent bladder leaks, say they feel older than they are*,” Dr Jarvis explains. If a sensitive bladder is making you feel older than you are, or if it’s preventing you from doing all the things you enjoy, it’s important to speak to speak to your doctor about how you can start managing your symptoms and get back to feeling like you again.
Always Discreet offers a range of products for sensitive bladder including liners, pads and underwear. They help women manage their symptoms and embrace life with confidence – find out more here