By Leah Fulker, PT, DPT
As a pelvic floor physical therapist, I’ve heard countless times from so many women:
- I thought my leaks were no big deal, until they got worse!
- This is affecting my confidence …. and my relationship with my spouse
- I don’t feel as free to do the things I like to do. And everything needs to be PLANNED:
- What to wear: Is this fabric too revealing?
- What to bring: Do I have enough pads?
- Where to go: Where are the bathrooms?
- Why didn’t I get help sooner?
I’ve seen patients who seek out help right away when they start to experience bladder leaks. I am always happy when women seek help sooner, when issues are often easier to treat. But more often, I see those who have been suffering with bladder leaks for many, many years!
As a healthcare provider, I wish so badly that these women had help sooner. There are too many reasons to list why women don’t seek help … thought it was normal? Maybe your mom and friends have it too? Too embarrassed to bring it up to your doctor? Thought your leaks weren’t “bad enough”? There are so many reasons women just cope with leaks instead of treating leaks.
But left untreated, bladder leaks don’t usually go away on their own. How many times have we ignored our back pain or shoulder pain? Did it go away on its own? Not likely. Same happens for urinary incontinence. Incontinence usually doesn’t just get better on it’s own. In fact, it often gets worse.
I’ve seen first-hand how even “small” bladder leaks affect women’s social lives, activities, confidence, even relationships with partners. I’ve had women in the clinic that were even too embarrassed to be sexually active because of fear of leaking urine. Most commonly, I hear “I just stay home now” …starting an endless cycle of pelvic floor weakness, sadness, pain, and so on. We must break this cycle!
Beyond hearing what women experience, I have also seen the medical studies. They are sobering:
- Women who develop SUI during pregnancy are 579% more likely to have stress urinary incontinence (SUI) 1-year postpartum. 1
- Women with incontinence have a 41% urinary tract infection (UTI) rate vs 9% without incontinence.2
- Urinary incontinence is a strong indicator of functional problems later in life. 3 A 2017 study on female nursing home residents in Switzerland found over 50% of the women had urinary incontinence upon admission and more than 80% needed help with their activities of daily living.
These are all things we want to avoid. The bottom line is, we shouldn’t have to just accept this as an inevitable part of being a woman! Just because we had kids and all of us are getting older, doesn’t mean we have to live with the burden of buying pads or being too afraid to remain active anymore! These risk factors have been proven to lead us down a road of isolation, loneliness, depression, inactivity, and weight gain…time to say NO MORE!
There are so many things women can do to take back control. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider, see a pelvic floor physical therapist, do pelvic floor exercises (if that’s what’s right for you), consider at-home treatments like Flyte, and remember that it’s never too late to get help! Let’s not “just live with it” and “buy these pretty pads” – instead let’s TREAT this problem! We deserve to live happy, healthy, active lives!
1 Gill, B., Moore, C. and Damaser, M., 2010. Postpartum stress urinary incontinence: lessons from animal models. Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 5(5), pp.567-580.
2 Raz, R., 2011. Urinary Tract Infection in Postmenopausal Women. Korean Journal of Urology, 52(12), pp.801-808.
3 Schumpf, L., Theill, N., Scheiner, D., Fink, D., Riese, F. and Betschart, C., 2017. Urinary incontinence and its association with functional physical and cognitive health among female nursing home residents in Switzerland. BMC Geriatrics, 17(1).