Now, before you panic (and perhaps become inconsolable), we would like to reassure you that while urinary incontinence (UI) is relatively common during perimenopause and beyond, it is frequently very minor and easy to control.
Now, whether this is the case for you, or whether your UI is more drastic, and you have to plan your movements around the proximity of a friendly bathroom, the cause of menopausal incontinence is much the same:
Basically, the production of the hormone estrogen we relied on all our younger lives, to help with our body’s female processes (menstruation, ovulation, urination) and promote muscle strength, starts slowing down as we age. This can cause the muscles in the pelvic region to weaken (known as ‘pelvic relaxation’) and you may not be able to use them to control your bladder like you used to. Reduced estrogen levels can also cause the vaginal and urinary tract tissue to become thinner, weaker, and less elastic – and all of these issues can increase the likelihood of bladder problems during menopause.
THREE types of UI are most likely to affect older women, the first being STRESS INCONTINENCE:
This is very common during perimenopause, but doesn’t usually get worse as menopause develops; it occurs when those weakened pelvic floor muscles can’t hold back the urine as you laugh, cough, sneeze or even exert pressure during exercise, or when you’re trying to lift something heavy. Usually, the leakage is just a few drops, but in extreme cases it can be quite heavy, and cause some awkward moments.
The second type is known as URGE INCONTINENCE, or ‘overactive bladder’: Here, the major symptom is the frequent and sudden urge to urinate – and if you leave it too long before you nip to the restroom, you could find yourself having an unfortunate (and even embarrassing) accident.
The third type, called MIXED INCONTINENCE happens when you suffer from both the above.
Thankfully, menopausal incontinence does not need to interfere with your routine and prevent you from living your best life – here are some easy guidelines we have put together for you:
Beverages with caffeine or alcohol tend to fill your bladder quickly so work on reducing your intake of these – say no to that second coffee or glass of wine!
Bladder training is very popular too: try gradually increasing the length of time between your trips to the toilet; ask your physician for tips on controlling the urge.
Many women practice relaxation techniques like meditation to reduce UI-related anxiety.
Certain medications, like diuretics and steroids, can impact negatively on your bladder; talk to your healthcare professional about alternatives.
Long-term constipation puts stress on the pelvic muscles, weakening them and making it harder to hold in urine. A regular probiotic may help with this.
Excess weight around the abdominal area (the dreaded middle-age spread!) puts undue pressure on the bladder and the only ‘cure’ for this is exercise! Avoid sugary foods and trans-fats too.
Many women opt for medically prescribed treatments like estrogen creams and vaginal suppositories, or ‘antimuscarinics’ that work on the bladder itself – and you could also ask your medical professional about vaginal pessaries or urethral inserts to reduce leakage.
With so many really efficient purpose-made UI protection products available, it’s easy to make sure you’re ‘covered’, whatever you’re doing, whatever you’re wearing. Pads, liners, disposable panties and even fully washable underwear are here to help us live with life’s little (and BIG!) leaks comfortably, confidently and discreetly.
Urinary incontinence. An inconceivable concept when you’re younger, and still incongruous to you, when you’re old enough to fall prey – but remember, the Vooma lifestyle community is here to offer support, smiles and solutions, and together we can make UI just another inconsequential stage of aging!
*This blog post is purely informative and in no way provides any medical advice.