Oh sure, the headlines are funny, but for some, the issue of incontinence, or leaking urine, is no laughing matter. Let's face it, peeing your pants can be embarrassing and hard to talk about, but the problem is more common than you might think.
The American Urological Association Foundation says one in three women over the age of 45 leaks when they sneeze. Stress incontinence strikes nearly half of all women who have had children by the age of 40, according to the National Association for Continence.
“Many women of a more mature generation simply face it as a fact of life, but incontinence is not a normal part of aging,” said Dr. Joshua Woelk, a urogynecologist at the Methodist Physicians Clinic Women's Center. “It's important that women know this problem can be taken care of and they don't have to deal with it.”
Stress incontinence, which is more common among women who have given birth, is caused by a weakening of the muscles and connective tissue that support the urethra. Any physical activity that puts pressure on the bladder from above such as coughing, sneezing, running, or lifting, can push the urethra down and open, causing a leak.
So what can you do about it? First of all, it's important to know that 96 percent of stress incontinence cases are completely curable. Treatments can range from physical therapy to medications or surgery.
Here are some things to try:
Try to isolate your pubococcygeus muscles and hold them in a squeezing position. Count for three to five seconds, release and relax for five seconds. Complete five repetitions each day.
Just getting out and walking helps with your overall physical shape. Weight loss also helps.
Avoid the 5 C's
Coffee, carbonation, chocolate, citrus and cigarettes. Occasionally, if urge incontinence is to blame, doctors recommend diet modifications. If you suffer from stress incontinence, you may need further evaluation and possible surgery.
How each patient responds is as personal as the problem itself. When the symptoms of stress incontinence or overactive bladder don't respond to conservative treatment, surgery may be your best option.
Bottom line: Talk to your OB/GYN or a urogynecologist about any problems you have with incontinence. These doctors are well-versed in the treatment of incontinence and other conditions that affect the female pelvic region.
While many say laughter is the best medicine, when it comes to incontinence, women need to know there is a real cure. No woman should feel that this is an issue that is untreatable.
For more information about the urogynecology services at Methodist Physicians Clinic Women's Center, click here.
Katina Gordon is a public relations and social media specialist for Methodist Health System. She will guest blog occasionally for livewellnebraska.com.