Have you had an embarrassing leak when you sneezed? Or while you went out for your morning jog? Those little dribbles and squirts can come at the worst times and cause a lot of embarrassment. You’re not alone. Throughout the course of a woman’s life, her body goes through a lot of growing and changing. Women experience hormonal changes and physical changes that can ultimately lead to occasional bladder leaks with a condition called Stress Urinary Incontinence, or SUI. While experiencing light bladder leaks is common, many women feel that they will never regain their self-confidence or freedom back after being diagnosed.
What is SUI?
To understand the scope of the impact bladder leaks can have in a woman’s life, it’s important to understand what stress incontinence is and the possible causes. By definition, Stress Urinary Incontinence means the unintentional loss of urine as a result of putting pressure (stress) on the bladder and urinary tract by performing activities. There are actually 2 kinds of stress incontinence that women may experience:
Urethral hypermobility: In which the urethra shifts position due to an increase in abdominal pressure.
Intrinsic sphincteric deficiency (ISD): the sphincter does not seal off effectively at the bladder.
As mentioned before, these activities can range from everyday things like coughing or lifting to more high-impact activities, such as running or mountain biking. The leaks women experience with SUI also varies from a couple of drops to a small stream. The cause of SUI is believed to stem from weakened pelvic floor muscles that help regulate and control the flow of urine. These groups of muscles may be damaged or weakened from things like:
- Vaginal childbirth
- High-impact activities over time (career runners, athletes, etc.)
- Surgeries (hysterectomy)
If you’re experiencing a strong and sudden urge to use the bathroom, you may be experiencing what’s called Urge Incontinence, and not SUI. If you’re unsure of what kind of incontinence you’re experiencing or urinating has become painful, contact your healthcare provider.
Small Leaks, Big Impact
While most may view bladder leaks as an embarrassing nuisance, or even just another step in the aging process, it has a big impact on women’s self-image, confidence, and relationships. Women often feel insecure, embarrassed, and alone when dealing with bladder leaks. And, because SUI can develop after life and body altering events like childbirth or surgery when self-esteem is already fragile, a small leak can seriously hurt a woman’s confidence when she’s already down. Relationships that women have can also feel the effects of light bladder leaks. Women that have SUI will sometimes miss social gatherings or have to leave early to avoid any embarrassing moments. Missing interaction time with other people may quickly turn into isolation, leading to depression and other mental health issues. Women also need to be conscientious of sanitary health when experiencing leaks, it is important to be clean and safe when dealing with bodily fluids.
While many women feel that their life and self-esteem will likely never be the same after experiencing stress incontinence, there is hope! With around 1 in 4 women over the age of 18 reporting incontinence during activities, it’s comforting to know that you’re not alone and that other women have lived full lives going through what you are. There are also solutions for helping treat or hide leaks.
Medication – There are medications and medicated ointments designed to support the urethra by using estrogen to help build thinning tissue.
Pads and Liners – There are pads, liners, and disposable undergarment options specifically for urinary incontinence that are similar to menstrual products. Incontinence products are meant to quickly absorb fluid and neutralize urine acid.
Surgery – Some women and their doctors choose to surgically support the bladder and urinary tract using a sling procedure. While this is an option, it is important to mention that the FDA has ordered pelvic mesh manufacturers to stop production and distribution until their products are deemed safe. One may opt for a traditional sling surgery, however, which utilizes tissue from the patient or a donor to create the support .
Kegels – Kegels are pelvic floor muscles exercises that women can do anytime, anywhere (click here for a how-to) that may help reduce leaks over time.
A more practical and effective solution for women is the new revolutionary bladder support device called Revive™. The FDA cleared, over-the-counter product is inserted by the user to help reduce leaks and stay dry for up to 12 hours a day. The comfortable design and universal size fit most women, and in clinical trials, 90% of participants felt it was a good fit upon first use. Revive is also reusable, reducing the amount of waste that is created with other incontinence products. Available without a prescription at retailers nationwide so you can get back to being you.