14 May Gotta Go?
We’ve all heard the saying, “I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants.” Well, for some of us (the ones who actually pee our pants), this is NO laughing matter. It’s down-right embarrassing, to say the least. Not to mention the inconvenience. But I’m here to tell you, it’s much more common than you think, AND it is treatable. Hooray!
This conversation is so not sexy. I know. But neither is wearing Depends Undergarments. So let’s just deal with it and stay dry.
(Um… I think I just lost EVERY male subscriber to this blog. But before you click on that “unsubscribe” button, hear me out… If you have a mother, a sister, a wife, a daughter- if there is any significant woman in your life over the age of 40, chances are that they, too, suffer or will eventually suffer from incontinence at some point).
Here is my journey to a leak-free bladder: After giving birth to 3 children, I noticed I was having “issues.” Ugh! Too often, certain activities would cause me to dribble in my pants. (If this is TMI, turn away now. I can’t promise it will get any better).
Most of the time, my years of Kegel exercises (see “Treatment” section below) paid off and I could clinch those muscles to stop the leakage. But occasionally, in conjunction with an overly explosive sneeze or laugh, I would dribble in my jeans. Ugghh! The Kegel exercises were simply not enough to stop the pee every time. Needless to say, these episodes were inconvenient, at times humiliating, and often stopped me from participating in different activities. So over the years, I learned to avoid jumping rope, trampolines, unexpected sneezes, coughing, laughing too hard, jumping jacks, etc. (Jumping rope on a trampoline was a lot easier to avoid than coughing and laughing, as you might imagine).
And yet… Why avoid any of it? Bungee jumping, for example, may be an activity most people would want to avoid. But it has always been on my to-do list. If you know anything about me, you know that I take my bucket list very seriously (See the blog, Benefits of a Bucket List). But the thought of peeing my pants while upside down when the tension of the bungee cord tightened and flung me back up toward the sky seemed like I was just asking for trouble (and quite frankly, pee in my hair).
I was bound and determined not to let a little dribble in the panties (or in my upside-down-hair for that matter) interrupt me from experiencing something I wanted to do. So, I began my research a few years back. And I was shocked to find out how common this problem is! Studies show that up to 45% of women over the age of 40 suffer from this embarrassing problem. And those are just the ones who admit it. And the numbers continue to rise with age. WHAT?! Why aren’t more people talking about this? Why isn’t this topic being discussed in every health magazine? Why aren’t we all, as women, standing on the mountain top screaming, “Someone PLEASE help me stop peeing my pants!” (Because it’s embarrassing. That’s why).
Armed with this alarming information, I have to admit, I found little comfort in discovering I was not alone. After all, I was still walking around with wet panties. Not very comforting. So, a planet populated with similarly leaky middle-aged women who didn’t talk about it did NOT make me feel any better. I knew I needed to do something. I refuse to go down having to wear an adult diaper no matter how “new and improved” they are (as compared to our grandmother’s version). The new Depends commercials show a woman pulling up her dress to reveal the new sleeker style and new sexy color: gray. It’s the adult version of the toddler pull-up diaper (minus the Disney characters). Um…no thank you. I don’t know about you folks, but my panties look NOTHING like that. My undergarments are always a matching set. Period. This way, I am always prepared for a car accident or a bank robbery scenario where the hostages have to strip down to their underwear at gunpoint. (I’ve seen the movies). Even when I get to be 90 years old, my bra is going to match my panties, so help me God!
So, with that said, here’s what I learned… (caution: medical terminology ahead):
Urinary incontinence results from the deterioration of pelvic muscles due to childbirth and/or aging. There are two common types of urinary incontinence: stress incontinence and urge incontinence. Stress incontinence is when you accidentally leak during or after an event, such as sneezing or exercise (or bungee jumping). This is usually caused by week pelvic muscles after childbirth or after a certain age as your muscles weaken and your organs begin to drop. (Yes, everything drops as we age, even our organs). Urge incontinence is when you feel the need pee frequently. The muscles around the bladder put pressure on the organ, causing you to have that “need to go” feeling. Both types SUCK!
There are some very promising advances being made in this field, however. A new product has hit the market, Poise Impressa Bladder Support. These tampon-looking devices are inserted vaginally, just like a tampon, and are designed to manage Stress Urinary Incontinence. They expand internally, pushing against and supporting the bladder. They don’t absorb leaks. They actually prevent them from happening. BRILLIANT! If you are not yet ready for the surgical treatments available today, I suggest you purchase the Impressa Sizing Kit. Impressa comes in three different sizes, and the Sizing Kit helps you find your most comfortable and effective internal fit. Make sure you fully read the instructions to ensure proper sizing and insertion. These really work, folks! I’ve been telling my girlfriends about these, and every one of them have reported positive, dribble-free, results. Hooray!
If you are looking for a more permanent solution, however, they are out there. But before I tell you about them, I need to cover my ass here. I am NOT a doctor. I don’t pretend to be a doctor. I’m just a 47 year old mother of 3 who once upon a time had a leaky bladder. So, if any of my story sounds familiar to you, seek the advice of a doctor. Search for the leading urogynecologist (women’s incontinence specialist) in your area. Often times your gynecologist, urologist or general practitioner can give you a recommendation. Me? I searched online and made several different appointments before deciding on my treatment path. Here is what I found.
TYPES OF TREATMENT:
1. Kegel exercises– this is used to treat stress incontinence. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as hard as you can. These are the muscles that stop the flow of urine. Hold five seconds. Release. Repeat for one minute. Do several times a day to build muscles strength of the pelvic wall. Added bonus? Better sex for both you and your partner. Hooray! So regardless of your bladder health, we all should be doing Kegels.
2. Bladder retraining– this is used to treat urge incontinence. Using a timer, slowly lengthen the time between your initial urge to go and the actual time you urinate. This may result in the occasional pee-pee-dance. Not to worry. Keep at it and you will learn to control that “need to go.”
1. Botox– Botox can now be injected into the bladder to reduce urge incontinence. It has proven to be quite effective, but it is not a permanent solution. Like Botox injected into wrinkles (See the blog, Botox Part 1), it wears off. (damn). You will need to be retreated at least twice a year.
2. Filler– that’s right, filler is not just for wrinkles (future blog to come). A synthetic material can be injected around the urethra to help bulk the area up and help reduce stress incontinence episodes. Again, filler, like Botox, is not permanent and the area will need to be retreated.
3. Nerve stimulators– a small device can be implanted under your skin that stimulates the nerves related to bladder control. It’s like a little pace-maker for the bladder. This seemed a little bizarre to me, and I was afraid of how I would explain this device to airport security. Needless to say, my research on this treatment didn’t go far.Medications:
There are medications for both types of incontinence. And new, over-the-counter medications are becoming available all the time. I chose not to list these. I strongly urge you to see a specialist before taking ANY medication. Many times, medications can mask a more serious problem and keep you from being properly diagnosed. See a doctor first.Medical Procedures:
1. Sling procedures– This is used to treat stress incontinence. A surgeon uses strips of your body’s own tissue, or synthetic mesh, to create a pelvic sling around the bladder neck (where the urethra connects to the bladder). The material helps keep the urethra closed when you sneeze or cough.
2. Laser Anterior Repair Surgery: A qualified surgeon uses a laser to tighten the muscles surrounding and supporting the bladder. This procedure is done inter-vaginally with no incision. It helps to treat stress incontinence. Added bonus? YES… tighter internal vaginal muscles. Hallelujah! I know first-hand that this procedure works! It’s the treatment I opted for. I also noticed that I stopped waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. So, although it is more commonly successful in treating stress incontinence, I think it cured my mild case of urge incontinence as well. Hooray!
Gentlemen, welcome back. You are now safe to proceed with the remainder of my website.