Female Incontinence And What Can Be Done About It
It seems almost every mom I know pees on herself regularly, and most just laugh it off and deal with it. But frankly, I am tired of having to snap my legs shut every time I cough or sneeze and pray to the bladder gods that I don’t wet myself. It’s gotten to the point that my incontinence is not funny anymore, and I want to do something about it.
I have birthed three children, and I have been peeing on myself since my first pregnancy 10 years ago. It has reached the point of being a daily occurrence, and I am over it. Whenever I sense a sneeze coming on, I have to stop everything I am doing to cross my legs, squeeze, and hope that I don’t uncontrollably pee. Just imagine what that looks like in the middle of the mall or grocery store.
If a cough or sneeze hits me unexpectedly or while I am sitting, I am screwed. I can’t tell you how many times I have actually sprayed pee out of my obviously damaged lady bits. I once sneezed, coughed, peed on myself, and broke my phone all at once trying to prevent the inevitable from happening. And did I mention I have allergies? So you can probably imagine what I have to look forward to every spring when the pollen hits the air.
I am only in my early 40s and the prospect of wearing a diaper for the remainder of my life is just not appealing to me. And this is not something that I ever thought I would have to seriously consider at my age. But here I am, and I am pretty sure I am not alone in this sentiment.
I joke with many of my mom friends about how many times and ways we have managed to pee ourselves. This seems to be an ongoing joke among moms that has normalized female incontinence. And frankly, incontinence is not something that us mommas or anyone for that matter should just have to live with.
Urinary incontinence — loss of bladder control — is actually a common issue, especially among women. According to WomensHealth.gov, incontinence affects twice as many women as men. The fact of the matter is many women experience health events such as pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause that can affect the urinary tract and the surrounding muscles known as the pelvic floor.
There are a few different types of incontinence. I personally suffer from stress incontinence which is when any physical stress on the abdomen or bladder can force urine to “escape.” This could be from coughing, laughing, sneezing, jumping, lifting heavy things like kids…you know…things you probably do every single day. And stress incontinence tends to be more common in younger women, which makes me feel only a little bit better about having it.
There is also urge incontinence which is when you feel strong, sudden urges to urinate before you can get to a bathroom or you feel urges multiple times a day. Women who suffer from this form of incontinence usually do not urinate much once they get to the bathroom. This is also known as overactive bladder and is an equally annoying and embarrassing problem.
You can also be unlucky enough to suffer from mixed incontinence, which is a combination of stress and urge incontinence. There is also overflow incontinence which I think is pretty self-explanatory. And of the millions of women that live with these symptoms, less than half seek care. But female urinary incontinence is not a normal part of aging and can be treated.
I was one of the women that treated incontinence as an annoying problem I just lived with. However, one evening after sitting on the toilet and peeing multiple times, I stood to pull my pants up, sneezed, and immediately sprayed pee all over my legs…WTF! That was my final straw, and I called my doctor the very next day.
What I found out is that there are multiple ways to treat female incontinence. And the good news is many of them are not surgical or involve wearing a diaper daily. One you have probably heard of is practicing kegels. This can help strengthen the pelvic floor and improve problems with incontinence. But did you know that there is such a thing as a pelvic floor physical therapist that can help you get your pelvic floor back in shape?
In addition, there are medical devices designed to help with incontinence. A pessary is a reusable, flexible silicone or plastic ring that you insert into your vagina and wear all day. The device is also used in women with vaginal prolapse. The pessary helps support the urethra to prevent urine leakage and requires a prescription. But you can also purchase a tampon-like urethral insert over the counter at your local drug store that acts as a plug to prevent leakage. Just make sure you remove it before you pee.
The Mayo Clinic also lists medication as an option to treat urge incontinence. There is also topical estrogen in the form of a vaginal cream, ring, or patch that can help tone and rejuvenate tissues in the urethra and vaginal areas. Moreover, electrical stimulation can be used to stimulate and strengthen pelvic floor muscles. And even injections of collagen and botox can be used to treat some forms of incontinence.
Surgery is the last option for me, but according to the Mayo Clinic, if you suffer from stress incontinence, you can have a sling inserted to help support your urethra or have a procedure called bladder neck suspension. Some women may benefit from having an artificial urinary sphincter inserted, and women who have pelvic organ prolapse and mixed incontinence may benefit from prolapse surgery.
I am just at the beginning of my journey in addressing my pee problem. But I am so happy to know that I don’t have to live with incontinence, and I decided to finally do something about it. And I share my story to let anyone that can relate to my story know… you are not alone, and there are many options for treatment you can pursue if you are also fed up with peeing on yourself.