Though it may seem hard to believe, urinary incontinence is something that affects millions. The most common type of urinary incontinence is an overactive bladder (or OAB) which affects approximately 30% of American men and 40% of American women. Many people who experience the symptoms of urinary incontinence don’t speak out about it as they may feel embarrassed. However, it’s important to pay attention to your symptoms and evaluate when you should get them checked out. If you experience several of the symptoms below, you should consider visiting a healthcare professional.
Urinary incontinence affects both our work and social life. We may feel uncomfortable in social situations as we don’t want people to question our trips to the restroom. If we experience leaks, we may not wish to deal with addressing those in a public area. However, it’s important that we eventually come up with strategies on how to deal with this issue so that we can take the necessary steps in overcoming it. We need to focus both on how to make it easier on ourselves, as well as how to be prepared in any situation.
As we stated above, an OAB is one of the primary contributors to urinary incontinence. You may have to consider retraining your bladder in order to retake control of your schedule. The process can be frustrating; it takes, on average, three months to retrain your bladder. However, if you can successfully manage to do so, you’ll feel a huge relief. There are a few key components to retraining your bladder.
Take a few days to keep track of your bathroom habits and write everything down. This includes the times you use the restroom, the amount of time you spend there, and how often you experience leaks. Record any habits you have on paper. If you see any patterns regarding what triggers the urge to urinate, write those down as well.
This is tricky, but if you can pull it off it’s going to make a huge difference. If you find that you urinate every hour, see if you can stretch it out to an hour and fifteen minutes. After doing that for a while, jump up to an hour and thirty minutes. Any time you feel the urge, see if you can focus on something else for a few minutes in order to increase the time between bathroom visits.
Both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, meaning that the consumption of either can increase the production of urine. Alcohol is especially harsh on the bladder due to its effect on your kidneys, as well as its title as a diuretic. According to drinkaware.com, “for every 1g of alcohol drunk, urine excretion increases by 10ml.” Caffeine doesn’t act as a dehydrate, but it does cause you to urinate more often. If you’re trying to retrain your bladder but consume a large amount of these liquids, you may find it to be a more difficult task.
You may feel as though less liquid equals less urination, but that isn’t always the case. Failure to stay properly hydrated can cause a buildup of germs and highly concentrated urine. This can lead to more aggravation on your bladder and make the urge to urinate more frequently. However, you should still drink the recommended amount of water—six to eight cups per day—and spread it throughout the day.
Pregnant women or those who are overweight may experience incontinence due to the extra pressure placed on their bladder. If weight is the primary factor behind your incontinence, it may be easily solvable via exercise. Even a minimum difference can make a notable impact on your bladder health.
Adjusting your diet is one way to work towards this change, as well as regular exercise. Make sure that you’re working out every part of your body, not only the pelvic area. While things such as Kegel exercises do work, what you’re looking to do is increase your overall physical health. Improving areas such as endurance and flexibility will help your bladder as well.
The best way to ease your anxiety is to formulate a game plan for any situation. If you prepare yourself for various social occasions, including work, you can better navigate your condition. Some things you can do include:
As we stated at the beginning of this article, you aren’t alone in dealing with your condition. Instead of allowing this to isolate or embarrass you, realize that this is a common condition that we should normalize and sympathize with instead of keeping it a secret. If you’re worried about anyone taking note of your habits, explain the condition to those close to you so they’re aware of what you’re struggling with—they’re sure to be understanding. If everyone is aware, they won’t be questioning your trips to the restroom.
Take the time you need to process your situation, as well as how you’ll manage it. Fortunately, there are several resources available should you have further questions, and you can request some of these from your doctor. Take a breath and formulate a plan. Know that it’s going to be okay—you’ve got this!