I know you probably don’t want to talk about incontinence – it’s possibly the last thing you want to talk about – but during the meno years it really is a ‘thing’.
One of the many that nobody talks about. However, the face is that incontinence or ‘just-gotta-go-now’ is one of the signs of menopause. It’s super common.
Argh, I hear you cry.
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Let’s take a look at the why’s and wherefores because knowledge is a wonderful thing.
Firstly, know that it’s the changes in our bodies that cause urinary issues.
To elaborate, as you know the meno years are a time when our ovaries stop producing estrogen. When we lose estrogen our vagina becomes less elastic. According to WebMD the lining of your urethra, the tube that empties urine from our bladder, begins to thin and our pelvic floor, the group of muscles that support your urethra and bladder, weakens.
Another thing that happens is a weakening of our pelvic floor muscles. This can happen due to age and giving birth.
We may experience a number of different types of incontinence:
You know the one? You laugh, cough or sneeze and ‘oops’ a leak! Or you’re lifting something heavy? This often happens after giving birth as well.
Oh, this one’s a doozy. The ‘urge’ comes on without warning and you just have to go. It doesn’t care where you are or what you’re doing. WebMD says this is often called an ‘irritable’ or ‘overactive’ bladder as well.
This happened to me when I was in Barcelona. Not a great memory!
Have you heard of this one? I hadn’t either, but it’s when you wake up several times during the night and have to go to the bathroom.
When I was in my 20s this was referred to as ‘honeymoon disease’ but now I’m in the meno years it’s just called discomfort! Most of us are familiar with the discomfort of UTI’s or urinary tract disease (aka cystitis), and the meno years mean we’re more prone to them.
What can you do?
- Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight equates to more pressure on your bladder. End of story.
- Check your liquid intake. Some drinks, like coffee, are diuretics and fill your bladder quickly. Fizzy drinks and alcohol seem to do the same thing. Alcohol seems to make the bladder more sensitive (not sure of the science on that!). Water is best. Of course, it fills the bladder as well but, for me anyway, it seems to cause fewer side effects.
- Have a cut-off time for what you drink during the evening. This helps to stop night waking.
- Exercise your pelvic floor. Kegel exercises (as they are called) tighten your pelvic floor muscles which can have many other benefits as well as bladder control. You can learn how to do them by stopping your urine mid-flow. Once you’ve got the hang of it do your Kegels while you’re driving, sitting or whenever you think of it. Start with 10 two or three times a day and build up.
- Invest in an Elvie. Best. Thing. Ever.
- Invest in some pads or special panties.
NB: don’t make a habit of doing your kegel’s on the loo, as it’s not a good idea to block your flow routinely.