You may think we’re all about the period at Wear ‘Em Out but that’s not true. Wear ‘Em Out is about honesty. It’s about ditching the shame surrounding periods. In fact, it’s about ditching the shame when it comes to vaginas end of. That’s why we’re also here to help you if you suffer from a weak pelvic floor. Did you know that our reusable pads can also be used to support bladder weakness?
The reality is that almost half of women (45%) suffer from bladder weakness at some point in their lives. A 2018 survey found that incontinence affects 51% of women over the age of 65 and in women aged 50-64 approximately 43% of women have struggled with bladder weakness in some form. So, while it may not be sexy, it’s really common and absolutely nothing to feel ashamed of. But, lots of people do feel shame when it comes to bladder weakness. We get it. Bladder weakness is a ‘down there’ problem, it’s an ‘older person’ problem – the list goes on and on – but we have to start being more vocal about it.
If we don’t talk about bladder weakness, on a personal level we don’t get the help we need. We start to feel more embarrassment and shame which in turn makes it less likely we’ll talk about it and the vicious cycle continues. But on a wider level, our reluctance to talk about bladder weakness means that research is less likely to get funded, treatments are less likely to be developed and other women suffer in silence too.
So here at Wear ‘Em Out, we are all about shouting about it. Here’s all you need to know about bladder weakness.
Different Types of Bladder Weakness
Firstly, not all leakages are down to the same bladder problem. There are different types of bladder weakness so it’s worth making sure you know what’s causing yours.
- Stress Incontinence: very common in women, especially if you’ve given birth vaginally. It can be triggered by a rogue sneeze, an over-enthusiastic cough, laughing, bending or lifting. If you struggle with leakage in these instances, then chances are your bladder weakness is caused by stress incontinence.
- Urge Incontinence: common in older men and women. Symptoms include increased urinary urgency (also known as overactive bladder), an uncontrollable flow of urine and increased urinary frequency.
- Overflow incontinence: extremely frequent urination and an inability to completely empty the bladder. Can also be characterised by dribbling urine.
- Functional Incontinence: most prevalent amongst the elderly and people with diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. An inabillity to move, think or communicate well enough to get to the bathroom on time.
- Mixed Incontinence: a combination of the symptoms described above.
What Causes Bladder Weakness?
There are a number of reasons why people suffer from bladder weakness. Of course, hoofing out a human or two can lead to bladder weakness but there are also a number of other things that affect the way your bladder works.
- Diabetes, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis can damage the nerves that control your bladder.
- Urinary tract diseases, infections, strokes, surgeries and treatments for pelvic cancers can also cause bladder weakness.
- Tumours or obstructions
- Poor kidney fucntion
- Certain medications
- Certain foods and beverages (alcohol and caffeine, for example)
- High fluid intake
What can I do about bladder weakness?
The good news is, that for the majority of people, bladder weakness can be significantly improved if not resolved all together. Many people continue to suffer in silence unnecessarily because they are too ashamed to ask for help. But there is help out there. In the meantime, the Wear ‘Em Out pads will give you the confidence you need to go about your daily life, but trust us when we tell you, we’d love to see you leak free (even if it means we don’t sell as many pads).
So, here’s a list of things that you can do to help manage, improve and maybe even resolved your bladder weakness.
Speaking to your doctor will help you ascertain exactly what kind of bladder weakness you are suffering from. In a lot of cases this can be helped by making simple changes to your routine and habits. This could include limiting the amount of fluid you take in, eliminating caffeine (which can be a real irritant to your bladder) or learning to hold your urine for longer.
If you’ve ever been pregnant or attended an ante-natal class, you’ll have had the importance of doing your pelvic floor exercises drummed into you. Bladder weakness can be a simple case of weak muscles which means that doing the exercises can build the muscle back up and help reduce any leaks. The most common of these are called Kegels. If you’re not sure how to do your Kegels, or whether you’re doing them properly then check out the advice on the NHS website.
There are also a number of other exercises that can help you with your core and pelvic floor. Squats and bridges are particularly good but for more detailed guidance on exercises that can help prevent bladder weakness check out this Healthline article.
There are medication available that can block chemical messages in the nerves around the bladder. This reduced bladder weakness and leaks by relaxing the bladder muscles and increase your bladder capacity. There are also injectionable medications which thicken your urethra wall so it seals more tightly to stop bladder weakness and leaks.
Treatments using Botox have been shown to really help bladder weakness. Botox injections can relax overactive bladder muscles and the benefits can last several months. You may need to go for repeat injections once or twice a year.
In more serious cases of bladder weakness, surgical procedures can help. There are devices that can be implanted that send mild electrical pulses to the nerves that control your bladder muscles. There are also ‘slings’ which can be surgically implanted to help support your urethra.
While some of those treatments may seem scary, the point is that there are treatments available. But according to a poll published in 2018 only 38% of women suffering from bladder weakness or incontinence of any kind seek help.
Why aren’t we speaking up?
Embarrassment and shame are central to the silence surrounding bladder weakness. When we are young we are taught it’s embarrassing to be unable to control our bladders. This stigma is something we carry through to adulthood. Speaking to Healthline, Dr. Carolyn Swenson says people, “may be embarrassed or find it difficult to bring up if a doctor doesn’t ask them specifically about it. There are some techniques to help with having these difficult conversations.
“Consider scheduling a separate appointment so it doesn’t get overlooked or minimised because of other health concerns,” Swenson suggests. ” Women can also ask for a referral to see a urologist – a doctor who specialises in the medical and surgical management of urinary incontinence and bladder weakness.”
But if that even sounds too much, Swenson also recommends writing a note. “If you are feeling embarrassed or finding it difficult to bring up to your doctor write down your concerns (note when it happens and how often and what you’re doing when it happens) so that when you are nervous you don’t forget. Having a note will help you recall your concerns and ask your doctor on your next steps.”
There is another reason women don’t talk about bladder weakness. Many assume it’s an inevitable part of ageing. Swenson says, “Many women…often believe it is something they just have to learn to manage on their own. They may think it’s not a real medical problem or be unaware of all the treatments possible.” But, it’s important to recognise bladder weakness and incontinence as a medical problem and to know that there are treatments available.
So, what next?
If you are struggling but haven’t done anything about it then the next step is to start talking about it. You may find it easier to confide in a friend or your partner. Sometimes, speaking to someone you trust will help you gain the confidence to take the next step and speak to a doctor. Always aim to get medical advice though because bladder weakness is incredibly treatable, you just have to ask for help first.