In an era of normalizing uncomfortable conversations, allow me to introduce a common health problem that women all over the world experience: urinary incontinence, aka leaky bladder. You may be surprised to learn that approximately 1 in 4 women experience this discomfort. Although it’s often an awkward topic to discuss, there are a surprising number of misconceptions around this subject.
Today, I’d like to clear some of those up! Here are 4 common myths about the leaky bladder.
Myth #1: It only happens to older women
In general, bladder leakage conjures up visions of retirement homes filled with elderly women, knitting peacefully in rocking chairs, until they suddenly “have an accident”. I’m sure that everyone’s walked down the aisles at the store and spotted adult diapers with happy, smiling elderly folks plastered across the packaging.
While most people associate bladder leakage with old age and the elderly, this couldn’t be further from the truth: 24% of women between the ages of 18 and 44 experience urinary incontinence. If you sit in this age group and have been fortunate enough to have never experienced this, take note. Many women in their 20s and 30s have found that after having children, simple things like laughing, coughing, sneezing or jumping can all cause urine leakage since the pelvic floor is weakened after childbirth. Other contributing factors include excessive weight as well as menopause.
Suffice to say that bladder leakage can affect women of every age and is definitely not just an “old people’s” issue.
Myth #2: You just have to accept it
Bladder leakage can cause feelings of shame and embarrassment, meaning that most women won’t even bring up the issue with their doctors – and the women who do discuss this with their GPs are often told that there’s not much that can be done about it. The advice that follows is usually to the tune of continuing with Kegel exercises, wearing pee pads just in case and reaching a stage of acceptance since it’s “just one of those things”.
While this isn’t completely true (there are some good, natural solutions for incontinence, which I’ll get to in a minute), simply “accepting” that there’s nothing you can do about it not only discourages conversation around this subject, but it also further perpetuates the idea that this disruptive health problem is something to be ashamed and embarrassed about. That doesn’t seem very helpful to me.
Instead of quietly accepting that nothing can be done, I suggest we start having more open conversations about it so that it becomes easier to explore resources and maybe even find and discuss solutions. There are many effective ways to deal with bladder leakage – so let’s start rejecting the idea that this has to be your new reality.
Myth #3: It’s something you should be embarrassed about
While it’s normal to feel self-conscious about it, urinary incontinence is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. An estimated 50% of women will experience some form of bladder leakage in her lifetime, meaning that, at the very least, you’re not really alone in that bathroom stall.
Along with creating new life and giving birth (meaning postpartum leaking), there are many factors that could predispose us to experiencing this problem as women – including genetics, and in some cases, congenital anomalies. Open conversations, finding and sharing knowledge, and exploring solutions, are a good start to stop embarrassment and shame, which only inhibits the beautiful life you’re meant to live!
Myth #4: There are no natural solutions
Survey says: False! There are actually a few extremely effective, natural solutions for bladder leakage, though many women aren’t aware or don’t have access to this information since, again, it’s not something that we see on our Instagram timelines. Since the most common prescription for this problem is Kegel exercises, drugs or surgery, it’s also possible that your doctor may not be aware of any other treatments or solutions either.
There are many alternative natural treatments you can do to resolve this issue. For starters, pelvic floor physical therapy has a proven track record for improving, and in some cases, resolving, a leaky bladder. Some women have found that doing Pilates can also be helpful in strengthening the pelvic floor too.
If you’re looking for a fun solution that combines a good workout with pelvic strengthening, try belly dance! I created my program, The Belly Dance Solution, specifically to help women strengthen their pelvic floor muscles, by doing regular belly dance movements. The cool thing about this solution is that it’s actually backed by research!
Young or old, if you suffer from bladder leakage, you deserve absolute freedom from this very common health problem. Check out the resources listed in this article, try them out and, most importantly, don’t feel ashamed about sharing your experiences. We all deserve to become empowered enough to create the lives we want, so put down that pee pad and let’s chat about incontinence!