Belly, Pregnant Woman, Close Up, Cute Pregnant BellyYou can be forgiven for thinking that the answer to this is obvious – older pregnant women must surely suffer from urinary incontinence than a younger woman because, incontinence is an age-related problem, right?
The answer may startle you.
A secret but common issue
For many women, they find that incontinence starts during pregnancy. As the baby grows, more pressure is placed on the bladder and the need for incontinence pads to help manage it becomes common place.
Urinary incontinence can continue for a few days or weeks after the birth but many women, no matter what their age, fitness levels and so on, don’t regain full control of their bladder for some time. With over 3 million people suffering from incontinence in the UK, the majority of which are thought to be women, it is a medical issue that is still rarely discussed.
Research has shown that women wait an average five years before they seek help, assuming that it should or could get better as time goes on.
Urinary incontinence is related to a woman’s ability to enjoy sex too, meaning that your emotional state, body image and sexuality are all affected.
The good news is that the taboo surrounding urinary incontinence is being shrunk, with women now understanding that they don’t have to ‘live with it’ or accept it as a normal part of the aging process, nor a part of the birthing process either.
Types of incontinence
The solutions you need will depend on the type of urinary incontinence you have;
- Stress incontinence is when you leak a little urine when your cough, laugh, sneeze, lift and so on. In other words, a movement or motion places stress on the bladder and surrounding muscles causing an escape of urine you can’t control.
- Urge incontinence is sometimes known as an overactive or sensitive bladder. It is a sudden and urgent need to go to the toilet, followed by an involuntary loss of urine.
- Mixed incontinence means you suffer from more than one type of incontinence, stress and urge using being the most common mix. Some experts believe that the majority of women suffer from mixed incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence is when you cannot empty your bladder every time you go to the toilet. This can lead to frequent or constant dribbling of urine.
Coping with incontinence
Coping with incontinence, no matter what type you have, is about making lifestyle changes that make managing the condition easier. This is the first step; the second is to seek medical help and treatment.
- Incontinence pads – the first step for many women is the use of incontinence pads. These are specifically designed for use with incontinence, trapping odour and also absorbing the urine away from the skin. Sanitary pads are not as effective with urinary incontinence as they are with menstrual blood.
- Fluid intake – cutting back on fluids may not be the answer but changing the way you drink may be. Consuming a large glass of water in one go means that the fluid passes through your system like a wave. Drinking smaller amount and often is much easier on the bladder.
- Choosing drinks – caffeine, commonly found in coffee, tea and some soft drinks, is a diuretic meaning it makes you want to urinate more. Cutting down or cutting it out completely can make a real difference.
Urinary incontinence is a medical condition thus, if it persists after birth, seek help from your midwife, doctor or nurse. There are various options on offer, such as;
- Pelvic floor exercises – these clench and release exercises can be don anywhere, any time. This exercise strengthens and tightens the muscles around the bladder, meaning you have more control about when you urinate. They can be practiced several times a day and within weeks, you should notice a difference.
- Bladder training – this is useful when suffering from urge incontinence. Your GP will talk through what is best for you but suggestions are you visit the toilet every thirty minutes and then, over time, you increase the length of time between toilet visits to three or four hours.
- Medication – some women also need medication to help control and manager their urinary incontinence. This is something to think about carefully, but from people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease or MS for example, it can be incredibly helpful in controlling the bladder.
- Surgery – from those who suffer from near-constant and uncontrolled urinary incontinence, surgery is an option.
Urinary incontinence is not a medical condition that discriminates. It is common in women of all ages, pregnant or not but, for a long time, women lived with it. Today, the taboo of the subject is lifting meaning that more women are seeking help.
HARTMANN Direct supply a range of high quality incontinence pads for men and women, and in all absorbency levels too. Offering a discreet and prompt delivery service, managing incontinence of all types is much easier.