Remember when we were a giggly bunch of teenagers and would think something was extremely funny or outrageous or scary and exclaim, “I almost peed my pants!”
Well, now that we’re older, most of us can remove that “almost.” According to the National Association for Incontinence, one in four women over the age of 18 experience episodes of leaking urine involuntarily. A 2015 study revealed that 68 percent of women ages 42-64 experiences the problem at least once a month.
Why? A lot of us blame it on menopause because … why not? We blame everything on menopause! Actually, the reduced hormone production that occurs during menopause negatively impacts the healthy lining of the bladder and urethra. Childbirth and pregnancy weigh in there (which is why we have Mother’s Day, to maximize the guilt of it all …), as do obesity, age, and physical inactivity. Other conditions include pelvic organ prolapse and neurological problems.
So, the good news is, you’re not alone, and there are a bunch of reasons why. And the better news, you don’t just have to live with the nickname “Sprinter” (reflecting your super power of getting to a potty in a flash). Your physician can get things started with a medical exam that can help determine if you have stress incontinence (that laughing or sneezing and subsequent peeing) or urgency incontinence (the sudden urge to pee that always seems “too late”) and then determine the most effective treatment.
It’s important to remember that urinary incontinence is not a disease, but a symptom of something else. A medical professional may initially recommend behavioral and lifestyle changes – like limiting liquids close to bedtime, limiting caffeine, carbonated beverages or alcohol. They may recommend engaging in exercise and losing weight or stopping smoking. Some will suggest bladder training with the assist of a bladder diary (Dear Bladder, Today you were very naughty …) and pelvic floor exercises (aka Kegels). Additional treatments may include medicine for an over-active bladder (we’ve all seen the commercials), medical device implants and surgery as a last resort.
But this is no area for “Dr. Google” and self-treatment. Get yourself to a medical professional stat!