By: Red Hot Mamas
Published: January 13, 2016
Contributed by Dr. Barb DePree- Red Hot Mamas Medical Expert
We have recently learned that women will live with incontinence seven (seven. 7!) times longer than men will before seeking help for it.
I am the help, so I had to put this to my friends to help me understand why this would happen, because, well, frankly, I try so hard to be easy to talk with, and so do my colleagues, especially my colleagues and all their care teams in urogenital care.
So why, oh why would it take so long for anyone to come to us with such a difficult problem? No news could be more worrying.
As it turns out, it’s one of those problems many of us imagine is untreatable, undiscussable, more embarrassing because we imagine a leaking bladder makes us somehow… less. I just read the word on an incontinence forum: Unwantable. It broke my heart.
Then it sort of made me mad. Because nothing could be further from the truth! If a leaky bladder made us unwantable, most of us would be unwanted! Because here’s the truth! Humans leak! I’m a doctor! I know this for a fact. We leak all over, all the time!
But particularly menopausal women leak. I hardly need to mention that, do I? Sneeze, leak. Laugh, leak. Giggle fit, leak. Dream about peeing, major leak.
Fully a third of us will experience some form of incontinence in our lifetimes. That’s way too many unwanted people, isn’t it? So of course that’s not right. Incontinence is just human. And it’s got lots of causes. And it’s treatable.
Today’s truth is, there are so many varied and layered causes, treatments and options for managing incontinence that we understand now so much better than before, it’s as if we have dozens of baseball bats we can grab hold of to smash that tired old stigma to bits.
But we have to do this out loud, and together, and among all of our friends and acquaintances. Let no one you know not help with the stigma smashing! It especially makes sense for us to pay attention to continence issues, and the great people who are helping us understand it and learn to manage it before it manages us.
There are resources available, and I encourage–urge!–you to take advantage of them. Our friends at the Women’s Health Foundation, have information and action plans for women of every age on all aspects of pelvic health. The National Association for Continence (NAFC) is offers classes all over the United States, as well as Twitter chats on bladder health to help you learn what you need to know to Stay Strong.
Their message: Kegels are important, yes. But we must learn to do them correctly. And they are not the only way to strengthen your pelvic basket. These coaches will teach us to get to know our whole anatomy and strengthen our entire pelvic arena by teaming up with physical therapists and pelvic floor experts across the country to help all of us learn and gain control that we may have lost or may have never had to begin with.
Knowledge is power. Partnering with a provider you trust can get you that knowledge quickly. Check out the Women’s Health Foundation and the NAFC websites, make use of their classes, coaches, and information about treatment options, and speak up about what you’re experiencing.
It’s a whole new world for us. We don’t have to just live with any of it any more.
Dr. Barb DePree gynecologist, NAMS certified menopausal provider and founder of the website MiddlesexMD, a website for promoting women’s sexual health.