We know and trust our loved ones to understand and help us through both good and bad times. Friends and families are important for personal growth, relationship building, improving self-esteem, and beneficial for our overall health. Obviously, it’s easy to communicate with loved ones when things are good, people love to share stories and talk to each other. On the flip side, many people find it difficult to reach out and talk to the very same loved ones when things are bad. When we feel insecure, anxious, or depressed, it becomes exponentially harder to communicate with others, even those closest to us. These feelings can develop at any time but are more likely seen in individuals after experiencing grief, like losing a spouse, or a change in the status quo, like a cancer diagnosis. Reaching out to loved ones while you’re experiencing those feelings can help you through it. However, these feelings may develop over a seemingly insignificant health problem that thousands of people face as well: urinary incontinence.
What is Stress Urinary Incontinence?
While there are several types of urinary incontinence, we’re specifically discussing Stress Urinary Incontinence, or SUI. Those diagnosed with SUI find that they leak urine whenever the abdomen, urinary tract, or bladder itself is put under pressure or “stress”. The stress can be triggered by activities like running, jumping, or biking as well as everyday occurrences like coughing, laughing, sneezing, or lifting an object. This type of urinary incontinence can be seen in people of all ages and genders but is more common in older women, with around 10-20% of women being impacted according to the Cleveland Clinic. There are technically two kinds of SUI: urethral hypermobility, in which case your urethra shifts position due to an increase in abdominal pressure, and there is intrinsic sphincteric deficiency (ISD), when your sphincter doesn’t seal off effectively at your bladder. Light bladder leaks associated with SUI can be attributed to the weakening or damaging of the pelvic floor and surrounding tissue. There are plenty of risk factors that can contribute to the weakening of these tissues, including:
- Childbirth – women that have delivered a child vaginally may experience SUI as delivery can be stressful and damaging to the body and pelvic floor.
- Obesity – Being overweight or obese inherently adds more pressure to the bladder and pelvic floor, weakening it over time.
- Smoking – Besides nicotine being a bladder irritant (making you have to go more frequently) smokers often develop a chronic cough that can damage and weaken the pelvic floor, which in turn, can lead to leaks.
- Menopause – As the female body produces less and less estrogen entering into the perimenopause stage, it weakens the vaginal walls and the tissue that helps support the urethra, which can lead to leaks.
- Repeated impact activities – Those who are or have been engaged in high-impact activities like running, dancing, or horseback riding may also develop leaks, and the repeated impact can do some serious damage to the urinary tract.
In addition to these risk factors, those who have undergone surgery that may interfere with the pelvic floor are also at risk, as well as men that undergo surgery to remove the prostate.
Why You Should Reach Out
Unless you yourself have experienced an accidental leak, SUI may seem more like a nuisance than a real problem that can have a serious impact on almost all aspects of life. According to the OBGYN Online Library, light bladder leaks can impact the following parts of a woman’s life:
- Feelings of stigma and humiliation
- Social and recreational withdrawal
- Fear and anxiety related to being incontinent in public
- Reduced intimacy, affection and physical proximity
- Marriage breakdown and subsequent divorce
Exercise and sport
- A barrier to exercise: a particular problem in mixed incontinence
- Loss of concentration and ability to perform physical tasks
- Interruption of work for toilet breaks
- Absence from work
Travel and holidays
- Reluctance to visit new places
- Need to pack protective materials, think of ways to dispose of used pads
To try to break how much SUI can impact your life and relationships, it is vital to communicate your struggles to your doctor, as well as those closest to you. Humans are social creatures by nature. Reaching out, talking and connecting with others can be the first step to improving overall mental health, even with light bladder leaks.
We’re not suggesting that you go around to everyone you know and start talking about pee, but maybe try talking to your friend or sister about it. Reaching out to others is much easier said than done, even for those who aren’t experiencing accidental leaks. HelpGuide.com suggests the following tips for connecting more to improve communication and mental health:
Call a friend or loved one now and arrange to meet up – It can be this week or a month from now, but making plans to see one another is the first step to actually doing it. If you’re feeling too busy, try to combine parts of your schedules! Workout, go grocery shopping or go to the park with the kids together.
If you don’t feel that you have anyone to call, reach out to acquaintances – Making friends is hard, so try connecting with those people you wouldn’t normally do so with! Social media makes it easy to reach out to old coworkers, classmates, and other acquaintances.
Get out from behind your TV or computer screen – Connections start in person, and while social media has its place for online communications, face-to-face conversations carry much more value with nonverbal communications and social cues being experienced.
While you’re reaching out and talking with your friend, family member, or even newly-met softball teammate, you can talk about what has been bothering you, even if it’s light bladder leaks. While opening up is intimidating and scary, the reality is that SUI is a common problem that many women face, and the consequences of isolation and declining mental health are far greater than the temporary anxiety of sharing your bathroom woes.
To find a solution and a plan that will work right for you, talk to your doctor so that they can properly diagnose and treat you. Some common solutions for women experiencing SUI include pads and liners, medications, hormonal treatments, Botox injections, and surgical procedures, all of which have varying degrees of effectiveness, cost, and effort to implement. Enter Revive®, the one size, reusable bladder support device specially designed for women. Revive works from the inside out to support the bladder and reduce leaks for up to 12 hours a day, plus they’re available over-the-counter at retailers nationwide!