real life

5 women on bladder leakage, the 'taboo' condition affecting millions of Australian women.

Thanks to our brand partner, Poise®

Let’s get something clear.

Bladder leakage is most definitely not normal, but in many cases it’s completely manageable.

It’s also very common and it’s time we started talking about it more to break the taboo.

How common, you might ask? 3.4 million Australian women kind of common, according to 2018 research by Millward Brown U&A.

Lori Forner, a women’s physiotherapist who specialises in pelvic health tells Mamamia that the cause of bladder leakage can be down to a number of things including having pelvic floor muscles that are too “tight” and unable to relax.

“Genetics can play a part, as can hormones. For example, certain times during a menstrual cycle, menopause and breastfeeding can make tissues stretchier and give women less [bladder] support,” she explains.

There are specialised physiotherapists who can help women with these issues. As Forner says, “it is common but not normal, and there is help”.

Unfortunately there are still so many myths floating around in corners of the internet about incontinence; that it’s the same for everyone, that it’s an “old woman’s problem”, and that it always arises after childbirth.

But there are a number of triggers for light bladder leakage, including coughing, sneezing, laughing or vigorous activity.

Recently, Poise introduced a new way to find the best solution for managing bladder leakage: 1) Pink sticker for light bladder leakage caused by sneezing, coughing and laughing leakage; 2) Orange sticker for moderate leakage caused by lifting, bending, or exercising; and 3) Purple sticker for heavy bladder loss – leaking that’s daily, unexpected or overnight.

We spoke to five different women about their completely different experiences with bladder leakage to see where they fit on the spectrum, and break down a few taboos while we’re at it.

*Names have been changed.

bladder leakage
Sometimes leakage can be triggered by lifting and bending. Image: Getty.

Cathy, 48

Ever since she gave birth more than 14 years ago, Cathy has found herself leaking on occasion.

She coaches netball, but can't run after balls or jump in fear of leakage so she instead coaches the team standing still.

Her physio told her she didn't know how to relax her pelvic floor, so she's trying to learn how.

The thing that worries her the most, is a paranoia that she 'smells'. She used to work in Aged Care and got used to the odour of urine.

All she wants is the confidence to be able to cough, laugh, sneeze, run and jump without fear of leakage.

She's taken to wearing pads or padded underwear whenever she does something overly active.

Emily, 15

Every time Emily went to drama class, she'd laugh. They did a lot of improvisation, and her classmates were really damn funny.

But it got to the point where every class she would wet her pants.

It wasn't just a little bit, her underwear would be saturated and she'd have to run to the bathroom to change both her undies and sometimes her school skirt.

She found it mortifying, and started wearing pads to school when she knew she had drama that day.

It took months before Emily got over her mortification and told her mum. She remembers crying in embarrassment.

When they went to the physiotherapist (reluctantly, it was embarrassing to tell new people), she was told she needed to strengthen her pelvic floor.

She was told to start practising tightening and releasing on the 10-minute bus trip to and from school.


But Emily found the whole 'action' hard to work out, so the physio gave her a TENS machine, which made the pulsations for her.

She estimates it took about a year, but eventually she no longer wet her pants in drama class.

Emily is 28 now and it has never returned, although she admits she's scared it'll flare up again when she one day has a child.

Elle, 19

For the past couple of years Elle found herself leaking on the way to the toilet.

Everywhere she went she had to scout out the nearest toilet, just in case.

It got to a point where she was weeing every 30-60 minutes, and her friends started noticing.

She started wearing liners every day, and that helped ease the panic.

She was diagnosed with an overactive bladder, and her physiotherapist helped her learn strategies to help calm it down.

Breathing, curling her toes, focusing on relaxing her pelvic floor. It all helped.

She's also been working on retraining her bladder to hold more liquid. (We should all be able to hold about 400ml, which makes us need to wee every three to four hours, physiotherapist Lori Forner tells Mamamia.)

Within a few months of putting all of these techniques into action Elle gained complete control over her bladder.

It only rears its head occasionally now, and is especially triggered by alcohol.

Alexandra, 45

Alex has had two children, the first of which was 10 years ago and had to be removed via forceps.

Since then, she's had a bladder prolapse.

Before children she leaked a little bit when she coughed, but nothing major.

Since her children, the leaking increased to two to three times a day.

It happens when she gets up from a chair, when she bends over, gets out of bed, laughs. It's so bad, she's started to sit out of social activities.

Her friends started jogging after work, but she can't join them because it is too risky.

Alex wears pads every day now. She's tried to do pelvic floor exercises, but it's not really working.


She's been told surgery is an option, and she's strongly considering it.

Mixed race woman with curly hair covering her face
The more we talk, the less embarrassing and 'taboo' this topic gets. Image: Getty.

Abby, 49

Abby wears a panty liner every day for light leakage and has done for a decade, since having her children.

If she exercises she ups her liners to the moderate leakage variety.

Before every circuit class she makes sure she urinates, but she does worry about it every time. There are certain activities she just flat out refuses to do - skipping for example is a no-go.

Abby's physio has her doing strengthening exercises for her pelvic floor.

Triggers for light bladder leakage differ from woman to woman, and identifying these triggers - whether they be laughing or vigorous activity - can be crucial in managing and improving bladder problems.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. If you've experienced leakage, be sure to speak to a health professional about what you can do. 

Poise has been helping women with bladder leakage for the last 27 years. For a free sample or to learn more about the best solution for your light, moderate or heavy bladder leakage, visit Poise's website.


For a free sample or to learn more about bladder leakage - visit