I was trying to find a clever and funny way to convey the definition of stress incontinence because many times when women describe to me what happens for them, they try to laugh it off. The ironic thing about stress incontinence is that it often happens during a hearty laugh and then we try to laugh about it. Actually though, there isn’t really much that is funny about a grown woman leaking urine.
In this posting, I am going to only talk about stress incontinence, though there are other kinds of urinary incontinence. ACOG, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, published a patient brochure titled: Urinary Incontinence, which provides an excellent overview about incontinence, including definitions, causes, diagnosing and treatments. This is how stress incontinence is defined in the brochure: “In this type, a woman leaks urine when she coughs, laughs, or sneezes. Leaks also can happen when a woman walks, runs, or exercises. It is caused by a weakening of the tissues that support the bladder or the muscles of the urethra. Stress incontinence is the most common type in younger women.” Below is a link if you are interested in reading more.
Why am I talking about this when I usually focus on periods, puberty, teens and products? First, this is something that has been talked about recently by women who I know and second, most women feel that this is something they have no other options but to accept it as a fact of their physical being. I personally hate that feeling and always believe that there must be something that can be done to help oneself when faced with a problem. It is the idea of empowerment over helplessness.
Before I offer some helpful ways to manage stress incontinence, I will relate two of the stories I heard that might sound familiar to some of you. (Both stories have been changed a bit to protect several women with enough to worry about without being outed in my blog.)
A work friend told one to me. She said that during breakfast with her husband, he told her something hysterically funny. First though, you have to picture her husband. He is kind of a gruff man who rarely says anything at all, let alone something incredibly humorous. She broke out in a hearty laugh and wet her pants through to the chair. Talk about breaking the mood – that did it!! When telling me about this, she laughed that kind of nervous laugh that says, please tell me this is funny or at least, normal and ok.
The other story was one told to me by a total stranger sitting next to me on a two- hour flight. We were doing some chit chatting about the books we were reading and she asked if I was traveling for business or fun. I politely asked her the same thing. She was on a work trip and I told her that mine was a fun, visit the family kind of travel. She also asked about the kind of work that I do and I told her that I am a RN and one of the Tampax and Always women’s health experts. Now here is where we go from superficial polite discourse that should have ended after I told her what I do. In truth, I actually wanted the discussion to end because I wanted to get back to my very good book. I didn’t even ask her what she did for a living. Like I said, the book was really, really good. However, she leaned over to me and asked if I know anything about what she could do about a recent problem she is having. The woman looked to be about 40 years old, was a bit overweight, well dressed with a designer handbag. The handbag doesn’t have anything much to do with the topic, but I always notice that. Love handbags myself. Back to the story: She proceeded to tell me that she hates to travel because if she coughs, sneezes, bends over to pick something up or just laughs she has begun to wet herself. One time she reached up to get her suitcase out of the overhead compartment and the pull of bringing her suitcase down caused her to wet herself. Now that got my attention and we spoke further about her situation.
Though often stress incontinence can be related to weakening or stretching of the support of the pelvic organs caused by pregnancy, my work friend had never been pregnant. Diagnosing the cause can be complicated so my first bit of advise is to never assume it is a sign of aging or a result of multiple pregnancies. In fact, sometimes there can be several reasons why this is happening. That is why I always emphasize the importance of discussing the problem with ones health care provider (HCP), so that an accurate diagnosis can be made. Only then can stress incontinence be managed appropriately and specifically to the cause.
Again, make an appointment with your HCP! Along with that, there are some lifestyle changes, mentioned in the brochure, which may help minimize the number of times you leak. Your HCP will probably tell you the same thing if any of these are a problem for you: Loose weight, avoid constipation, drink less fluids and limit intake of caffeine, seek treatment for frequent coughing and STOP SMOKING (I know none of us have ever heard that one before!) I suggest for further detail, link to the ACOG brochure. My goal here is to not to do another version of the Incontinence Brochure, but to get women who wet when they laugh to recognize that stress incontinence shouldn’t be laughed away.
Products that absorb: While I truly wish that NO woman had to deal with stress incontinence, it is a reality for some. To help manage the situation, I suggest taking a look at the new Always Maxi Leak Guard Plus ® and Always Dri-Liners Plus with Odor Lock ®. I have a link below if you want to know more about the Odor-Lock technology that continuously absorbs and neutralizes odors.