health

'Why will we discuss stretch marks, but not the problem that affects most of us?'

Bladder myths, busted.

At first, I didn’t want to admit it. This kind of thing doesn’t happen to a 33-year-old woman, does it? Surely I’m allowed to have children without such a consequence?

But when I confided in a good friend, she wasn’t just understanding – she was grateful I had told her. After having three children, she admitted to me she could no longer sneeze without it being a “problem down there”.

The problem? LBL – or light bladder leakage.

I remember thinking to myself that only older women wore incontinence pads. And who wants to talk about that anyway? Well, apparently lots of us do. And it was naïve for me to think that it only happens to older people, because almost half the people who suffer from bladder leakage are under 40.

But to fully accept it, I firstly needed to understand exactly what causes light bladder leakage.

And it turns out that it can happen to all kinds of women, and for all kinds of reasons. While it can occur at any stage of life, it’s most common during the following life stages:

1. Pregnancy.

Pressure on the bladder can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. When you think about it, at the end of gestation, there is at least an extra 3-5kg resting on your bladder. Our muscles can’t help but weaken.

Cameron Diaz in the film 'What to Expect When You're Expecting.' Image via Tumblr.

2. After childbirth.

A vaginal birth can be quite stressful on the pelvic floor. There is an awful lot of exertion that has probably never occurred before in that area, and even women who have an “easy” labour might find that things aren’t quite what they once were down there.

3. Menopause.

Whether you’re in your late 40s, your early 50s, or even closer to 60, going through menopause can be a difficult time. You may suffer one or all of the symptoms like mood swings, irrational feelings, irregular menstrual cycles, daily hot flushes, or unexplained headaches. Or, you may be one of the lucky ones who suffer no symptoms at all. However, one symptom that is rarely discussed is the impact on women’s bladder control as they go through the natural changes of menopause.

So why, then, are women happy to discuss stretch marks, the merits of cloth versus disposable nappies or hot flushes, but not the one thing that is probably affecting most of us? Do we not know how common it is? Or are we just too embarrassed?

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Kris Jenner isn't afraid to admit she has bladder control issues. (Image via Kris Jenner Facebook)

Well, it’s time to stop any embarrassment and stigma because the fact of the matter is, we are all prone to it. And instead of avoiding the topic, we should talk (and bond) over it.

Once I broached the topic with an older friend of mine (one I thought might relate), she immediately told me about a few of the ways she managed the issue:

• By doing pelvic floor exercises regularly.
• By reducing or cutting out caffeine, sweet drinks and alcohol (sob).
• By eat healthily to avoid constipation – but don’t use laxatives unless it’s completely necessary. Trust me here.
• By using the toilet only when needed (including when you wake up and just before going to bed – although that’s fairly obvious, right?
• Drinking LOTS of water - around 1.5 litres of fluid a day.
• Finding products that really work, like liners and pads specifically for LBL.
• And seeing a doctor if all else fails.

For some reason there still seems to be a bit of stigma attached to bladder leakage, and the shame of it is that there is almost always something that can be done. There are also a lot of myths surrounding the problem, and most of them are untrue.

For instance:

1. It only happens to older people.

Almost half the people who suffer from bladder leakage are under 40.

2. Surgery is the best option.

In many cases, surgery is the last option. In fact, less invasive treatments are recommended first, and then if all else fails, then surgery can be considered.

"In many cases, surgery is the last option." Image via iStock.

3. None of my friends suffer from it.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Almost one in three females older than 35 will experience bladder leakage, so you definitely aren’t alone in being affected.

LBL can be bothersome when it’s new to you. Luckily, when managed correctly, and with the right products, you can confront LBL and banish your fears. It’s much more stressful to ignore it.

Most importantly, please know that you’re not alone.

Have you (or know someone) who suffers light bladder leakage? 

Want more? How about:
I suffer from a problem no-one talks about. This is my story.

Another surprising side effect of obesity (that no one talks about).

 

Tags: bladder , health , light-bladder-leakage , women
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