A couple weeks ago I attended my local cancer support group Active Women Touched by Cancer Celebrating Life to hear a talk about bladder awareness. I've written about them once before when we had a sexologist at the meeting.
We had a physiotherapist who specialises in conditions such as urinary incontinence and poor bladder control and over-active bladder and urge incontinence - Kate Brocklehurst -talk to us.
This is not a subject women are comfortable talking about but it affects a significant number of us in varying degrees. Here are some stats Kate gave us:
- Nearly 4 million Australians are affected by incontinence
- 1 in every 3 women that have a baby experience incontinence
- Urinary incontinence affects:
19% of Australian women aged 10-29
40% of Australian women aged 30-44
50% of Australian women aged 60-74
Those are some staggering statistics don't you agree? And most of us suffer in silence because we are embarrassed, but in most cases this is a treatable condition.
Kate looks for what type of bladder incontinence is the issue - common ones are things like needing to go to the loo all the time and when you get there you find there's very little volume; or sneezing or coughing and having a small (or sometimes not so small) leak; having a sudden urge to urinate before losing a large amount of urine; or getting into the habit of "I'd better just go to the loo before I go out in case I can't find one once I'm there". Does that one sound familiar? In my house we have "one for the road"!
Kate explained that we should be able to comfortably go three hours before needing a bathroom break and that waking once during the night is acceptable. I found it really useful to have those timelines and I could see lots of the women in the group were interested too.
We talked about the various exercises we could be doing every day. We had all heard different things of course so Kate took us through some exercises, seems like we have a lot of work to do! She recommends clenching the perineum and the anus together (without clenching your bum, so no bobbing up and down on your seat) and holding for a slow ten seconds then releasing, ten times! But, wait for it. That's ten times sitting, ten times lying down and ten times standing! Because we suffer leakage in all of those positions we need to train the muscles in all of those positions. Then. Then, we also need to do "short, sharp clenching" of the same areas, ten times, in each position, for all those "sneeze" moments. In my head I see that as training the "acute" muscles and the "chronic" muscles, maybe I'm just a bit odd that way.
Some conditions are a bit more tricky and may need medication and others may respond better to surgery. There were women in our group who had done both and were able to talk about their experiences - all positive.
The moral of the story is, there is help out there for this condition that we suffer in silence. And we can all do some clenching exercises every day, no-one will know you're doing them unless you tell them!