Monday 11 January 2016

I'm talking Bladder Weakness - Because we Should!

Pop Photo Art Oops Image from Shutterstock

I've always been very honest on this blog and to be fair, my raw posts are often the ones that I've received the best responses to. The ones where comments, emails, tweets and even phone calls have poured in. It's not as if I'm shy - I've blogged about my issues around food and overeating, giving birth, having a miscarriage, bleeding all over a swimming pool floor and my foray with PND but I've never (yet) written about bladder weakness.

It's just not the done thing, is it? Do I really want to put it out there and say that I have to wear a pad each day and that I am avidly practising my pelvic floor exercises any time I remember. Yes you could be chatting to me in the playground and I look as if I'm concentrating but really I am squeezing and releasing with the hope that things just might improve down below if I'm a really good girl.

1. Stop the taboo and start talking about it
Sometimes I hear or read friends joking about sneezing or using the trampoline and having a worrying moment of 'wee leakage'. 'Ohh make sure you are wearing a Tena lady' is the standard response but bladder weakness really is still one of those subjects that we just do not talk about in a serious manner and I think we need to.

It's not sexy, I'll grant you that and I suppose that might be one of the reasons we don't want to discuss it but it is really common. I suspect if like me you have moments of light bladder weakness you might feel as if you are the only one of your friends to be blighted with this problem but actually the NHS estimates that there are between 3 and 6 million people in the UK affected by light bladder weakness. About a third of the entire female population will experience some level of urinary incontinence at some point in their life (*), so it's big numbers we are talking about here and women are more affected than men because of childbirth and menopause, but it is a problem for both sexes.

2. Wear Protection
Recently Lights by Tena got in touch and asked if I wanted to attend an event, I couldn't but I did say I'd happily blog about this subject as it is something that has become more of an issue since I developed cough variant asthma back in the summer. So I tried out my Lights by Tena and found that I prefer the ultra towels to the liners. They are good and I never realised before that Tena are developed differently to a sanitary pad, as the flow and density of blood and urine is quite different.

Lights by Tena seem to have developed a whole line of conversation around 'Oooops moments' which I have to say when I first heard about I didn't like.  I worried that it was trivialising a potentially serious problem but actually the more I have thought about this the more I think what they are actually doing is normalising a problem that effects so many and thus is perfectly normal.  In the same way you get lipstick on your teeth or call your man your ex's names, you might just have a small big of leakage when your girlfriends make you roar with laughter at the pub and as long as you are prepared then it is OK.

3. Do your pelvic floor exercises 
Many women bury their head in the sand when they experience their first moments of bladder weakness but actually it doesn't have to be a life sentence. With regular exercise we can train our muscles to get fitter and thus we have less accidents. My doctor gave me an info sheet about doing the exercises but there is lots online and Lights by Tena even have a free PFF (pelvic floor fitness) app you can download for free. It has video tutorials, guidance, monitoring and you can set reminders to make sure you keep up with your exercises.

4. Watch your diet
I hadn't thought about how my diet would affect my bladder but it makes sense when you do stop to think about it. Of course caffeine and many fruit and vegetables are natural diuretics, so you need to be mindful of what you are eating. Also avoiding too much alcohol, squash and fizzy drinks as they may all irritate the bladder and make things worse too.

5. Consult the doctor
If you have been exercising at home regularly for a good three months, as well as watching your diet and you do not see any improvement then it is probably time to consult your doctor.  Don't suffer in silence and certainly do not over think the conversation. When I mentioned the issue to my doctor recently she assured me it is one of the most common things that women post childbirth come to see her about.

I hope you are one of the lucky ones that is not affected by bladder weakness but if you are then I pray I have encouraged you to seek help and to help yourself. We don't have to live with this forever, lets get really serious and do those pelvic floors six times a day and banish any kind of weakness!

Good luck.....

(*)  Statistics Sources and here too

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