Unfortunately, many women have been influenced by the long-held myths about urinary incontinence and have accepted that the only way to get on with their lives as normally as possible is diapers and pads … or to be 24/7 one breath away from a toilet. In fact, your daily life shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be this way and we will try to reveal the top illusions about the common problem of women urinary incontinence that almost 50% have to deal with at some point in their lives.
1. Incontinence is "normal" as we grow older
This is the most popular myth about urinary incontinence and indeed, most women believe that it is an inevitable symptom of aging as our body simply loses the ability to hold urine. As women approach menopause, estrogen levels decrease and because it is the hormone that keeps the bladder and urethra healthy, fewer estrogens can cause weakness in the pelvic floor muscles.
Menopause is a factor that contributes to the onset or worsening of incontinence, but it is not the only one. Just take a look at the causes and underlying diseases that have been shown to cause incontinence:
Looking at the scientific literature, from 1997 until today, there is important evidence to support the theory that the incidence of urinary incontinence increases with age:
But there are divergent views on the pattern of this increase. For example, adolescents and young women who engage in sports in several studies show a higher rate than expected. According to Pamela Moalli, MD, a professor of urology at the University of Pittsburgh Magee-Womens Research Institute, incontinence problems are commonly associated with sports injuries, as about 20% of college athletes report leaks during their athletic activities. These are usually sports that can damage the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissue that support the bladder.
Urinary incontinence is defined in the International Continent Society‘s joint report as involuntary leakage of urine. However, many researchers choose to correlate the prevalence with the frequency of involuntary leakage of urine but on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. For this and other reasons, it is still extremely difficult to compare the results of different population studies.
And because incontinence is one of the main reasons why an older lady will end up in a nursing home, let’s agree that ageing can increase the chance, but it is not something predetermined and most of the time it can be treated effectively.
Regardless of age, most women don’t tell their doctor that they have incontinence problems because they are ashamed or simply think it is “normal” and unavoidable. IT IS NOT..
Just think how much the way our culture views the elderly has changed in recent decades. The stereotype of the old lady sitting in an armchair and knitting does not correspond to modern reality. The third age, which theoretically starts only at 56, now enjoys without discounts everything that life has to offer to the younger ones.
2. Incontinence is "normal" during and after pregnancy
During pregnancy, women may be more prone to leaks at times as the developing uterus changes the angle of the urethra (normally the body should be able to support the urethra and prevent leakage). After having a baby, it may be normal to have some leakage in the first few weeks (depending on the delivery), but then it should improve and stop.
Many women believe that pregnancy is the source of evil and that the “damage” caused to the pelvic area is normal to create incontinence … for the rest of their lives. Of course, some women have temporary problems, but this is just an embarrassing condition that should last for a maximum of 6 weeks. Endured incontinence after the end of pregnancy is not normal at all but a medical problem that is extremely likely to be due to some other factor and can be treated..
3. The only solution is diapers and pads
In stark contrast to the previous two myths, very often, women assume that there are no treatment options available for urinary incontinence other than pads or diapers and because of this delusion they don’t visit a doctor. Of course, pads and diapers are one of the ways to deal with incontinence in women, possibly the most popular, but they are certainly not the best possible solution. In fact, it is simply a tool that creates more problems than it’s supposed to solve.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million people worldwide suffer from incontinence, and while there are many alternatives available to help them manage their condition effectively, 70% do not seek help and are limited to incontinence diapers.
Unfortunately, most don’t wear the right diaper, with the right absorbency and this is a mistake that can lead to serious health issues such as:
And because in many cases we are not dealing with bedridden elderly people, there are important psychological consequences as well, such as:
On the contrary, a decent product for treating women with urinary incontinence can help manage the condition and get on with life as before without complications. A very good example is a special pessary, a small ring-shaped silicone device that “pushes” against the wall of the vagina and urethra to support the muscles of the pelvic area and help reduce stress incontinence. These intra-vaginal devices come in different sizes and it is always preferable to choose disposable products to eliminate the risk of urinary tract infections.
4. Only surgery treats incontinence
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, many women assume that only invasive treatment can solve the problem radically. The truth is that some doctors don’t always realize that many things can be done beyond surgery or taking medication.
Urinary incontinence is mainly caused by damage to two organs, the urethral sphincter that controls urine flow and the bladder. There are about 300 different surgical options for treating urinary incontinence, but it is difficult to choose the operation that will have the best chance of working well for the patient in the long run, as it can create issues such as difficulty in urinating, worsening of incontinence or simply failing to solve the problem. Surgical techniques are usually aimed at treating sphincter damage, either with the placement of free-flowing vaginal tape TVT – TVTO – TOT (which is usually the absolute choice of urologists) or in severe cases with installation of an artificial hydraulic sphincter, which opens and closes at will like the normal one.
Beyond that, there are non-invasive treatment options for urinary incontinence and they don’t have anything to do with a pad or a diaper:
5. You must always be ready to "run" to the toilet
Many women with incontinence think that everything is fine if they can get to the bathroom on time. You will not always succeed but most of the time it is virtually impossible if you are not already next to a toilet. If you have tried this tactic then you know it is not at all reliable while there is an even greater risk of injury.
The next time you feel this irresistible urge, please do not run. Just stop, take a good deep breath and do a strong Kegel exercise to contract the pelvic floor muscles and consequently the bladder. Then you can just walk to the bathroom .
6. My doctor cannot help me deal with incontinence
Needless to say, this statement is completely wrong and dangerous. Of course, apart from ignorance, fear of treatment, shame and the excuse of the normal, many women simply don’t know where to turn. Should they see a general practitioner? A gynecologist? A urologist?
Of course, all of them can help, but the scientific community has realized the magnitude of the problem for a few years now and thus created a new specialty, uro-gynecology. The reason many women are unaware of this unique specialty is because it is a relatively new field. According to the American Urological Society, doctors only began to receive certification in 2013.
This sub-specialty of gynecology and obstetrics aims to provide a high level of specialized diagnostic and therapeutic approach to women with complex pelvic floor disorders such as urinary incontinence, symptoms of overactive bladder, looseness of pelvic organs, urethra or uterus.
A urogynecologist handles everything from the diagnosis and evaluation of the condition to the management and the treatment. The remedies they choose to treat incontinence are as usual:
The important thing to remember is that incontinence doesn’t have to be a way of life. With time, the information and the appropriate intervention by doctors, urinary incontinence can be treated with absolute success.