One in three women in the US suffers from incontinence. Often women are either too embarrassed to seek help for their leakage or believe it’s just a part of aging. However, each of the four types of incontinence can be treated or managed either on your own or with the help of a doctor.
Talking to your doctor and determining the cause of your bladder problems is extremely important because your leaks might be a symptom of another condition and could get worse if ignored. In this day and age there is no need to just live with bladder leakage, make an appointment with your doctor and use this guide to help you start the conversation.
The First Step
The first step to solving your incontinence is to see your primary care physician. If your leaks are caused by infection or medication, your doctor might be able to treat you by prescribing or changing medication. However, if it’s more severe they will send you to see a specialist trained in treating incontinence, such as a urologist or a urogynecologist (OB/GYN who specializes in treating women with pelvic floor disorders).
If your type of incontinence is related to the brain or nerves they might even send you to see a neurologist. If they decide to treat with pelvic floor muscle exercises you may see a physiotherapist, who will help you get the right technique to strengthen the muscles that control your bladder and bowel.
Regardless of what kind of doctor you see it is Important to find a knowledgeable physician that you feel comfortable having an open and honest discussion with.
Starting the Conversation
It can be hard to broach the subject at first, so try starting with a more general statement and work your way up from there. “I’m having trouble with my bladder” is a good way to start—it should prompt your doctor to start asking you questions to get a better understanding of your issue. He or she will then be able to steer the conversation as they help you get to the root of your condition.
The doctor will take your medical history and current health concerns, but be sure to give them details on any pregnancies (vaginal birth or caesarian section, length of labor) or surgeries you’ve had—both of which can contribute to different forms of incontinence. When you list your medications, be sure to include dosages and frequency for each. Many medications, from prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) meds to herbal, vitamin, and mineral supplements, can contribute to bladder problems.
Your doctor will also want more information about your bladder problem, so make sure you’re as specific as you can be with your responses. “A little bit of urine” can mean different things to different people, for one person it might mean a few drops, for another it might mean a change of clothes.It could help to keep a record of your leaks and other symptoms over the 3-4 days before your appointment. In your journal you should record:
- Each time you urinate
- How much urine you void
- Everything you drink and eat, and the time
- When you leak and how much
- How many pads you went through
- What you were doing when you leaked?
- Was there an urge to urinate before you leaked?
Try to also record other symptoms not specifically related to leaks, like pain, constipation or diarrhea. Many of these symptoms are actually related and can be treated together.
One area that incontinence sufferers will overlook when talking to their doctor is: how this condition has affected their lives. However, if incontinence is affecting your social life and relationships—stopping you from going places or doing things that you once enjoyed—your doctor needs to know.
They are there to help you figure out the cause of your incontinence and offer effective solutions, don’t be embarrassed to reach out about the full effects that leaks are having on your life.
During the appointment the doctor might order certain tests to help uncover the source of your leaks, ask them to explain the test to you. Understanding the test and its purpose can make it much less stressful for you and let you feel more in control.
The same goes for any treatment they might prescribe: have your doctor walk you through all of the details. Ask them about the side-effects of any medication, have them teach you the correct pelvic floor muscle exercise technique, and ask for recommendations on the best Kegel exerciser for improving your pelvic health.
Make sure you leave with all of your questions answered—it will make your treatment easier and more effective, in addition to making you more comfortable with your doctor.
Urine leakage is nothing to be ashamed about, it’s a common problem that many women face but it is manageable with the right help from your doctor. Take that first step today and you will be that much closer to getting back to life before leaks—you’ll be happy you did!