I’m officially appalled. This has to be the WORST advice for dealing with incontinence ever – “live with it. It’s just a little bit of water. Get help. And be brave.”
Check out the full article here. I know the British are stereotyped as having a ‘stiff upper lip’ about problems (not inaccurately, I lived there) but still. No one should ever be relegated to just living with incontinence. There are so many treatment and management options that can help reduce or eliminate incontinence. At absolute minimum, there are ways to manage incontinence so that it has less of an impact on your daily life.
So, inspired by a heapful of dismay at such poor advice, I’ve copied Maggie’s original question below and provided my own answer!
I’m 35 and I’ve had radiation therapy for cancer and the resulting scarring means that I find it very difficult to stop leaking urine at times during the day. I really need to be near a loo all the time and as a result my life has been severely hampered. I’ve tried pads, but I’m always worried about the smell. Because I can’t go out very far my kids have to stay indoors all the time and it’s not good for them. I’ve tried every doctor, but no one can help and they just say I must “live with it”. But I can’t. Do you have any suggestions?
First, let me apologize for the poor advice you received from Virginia. You absolutely do not have to just “live with” incontinence, much less explain your bladder issues to friends and family to excuse having accidents on their furniture! Fortunately, several other ladies emailed in with much better advice. Still, I deal with this all the time, admittedly mainly from men, so I wanted to throw my own two cents in.
First, since your incontinence is the result of radiation, go back to that doctor.
There are prescription options that can reduce the frequency and intensity of your incontinence. If they can’t or won’t provide better options, consider a physical therapist who can help you with Kegel exercises (to improve muscle control) or a urogynocologist who specialized in disorders of the pelvic floor and reproductive organs. You also shouldn’t rule out surgical options which may be appropriate, depending on the exact causes and your doctor’s recommendation.
Second, consider changing your diet to reduce or eliminate foods that irritate your bladder and increase incontinence.
This includes spicy foods and caffeine. Do NOT drastically reduce your fluid intake. Your urine should be a pale yellow, anything darker and you’re dehydrating your body which can do more harm than good.
Third, do regular Kegel exercises and scheduled toileting to improve muscle control and to help train your bladder to go at controlled intervals.
Maybe you need to go to the bathroom every few hours, on a schedule so your bladder gets used to the idea of holding it and builds up muscle strength.
Fourth, depending on the amount you leak, don’t be afraid of pads.
They’re not glamorous but unfortunately they are a ubiquitous option that will give you a sense of security. You can also bring spare ones in your purse and change them every two/three hours. Great strides have been made in capturing or eliminating odor, so you can reduce the embarrassment. The truth is, you’re probably the only one that knows you have them on. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of great alternatives out there for women (though I know we’re working on it). Due to their anatomical variations, men have more options like condom catheters and our product, Men’s Liberty. When we get the market with one for women, we’ll definitely let you know.
Last but certainly not least, take every opportunity to talk to people who are also in your situation.
There may be support groups (online or in person) with people dealing with your same treatment, diagnosis or even dealing with incontinence. They’re an amazing resource of truly sympathetic people who are looking for options just like you. They can turn you on to all sorts of other options that most people (including doctors) may not know about.
I hope this helps a bit. Incontinence isn’t inevitable and its not something you just have the learn to live with. There are ways of minimizing its impact on your life so that you and your kids can go out and about without constantly looking our for a bathroom.
Anyone else have questions about managing their incontinence? Let us know!