Incontinence is inconvenient, embarrassing and can be down right humiliating. Even if you've never experienced a "serious accident", those little nagging thoughts are ever present. "Do I smell? Do I have enough pads to get me through the day (thanks to this stupid cough)? I hope Jane is not at this meeting - she always makes me laugh. Is there a bathroom in this office?", and the list goes on. It can impact your everyday routines, your choice of leisure pursuits and activities and even your sex life.
A client I met early in my practice, Emily, had a condition referred to as Mixed Incontinence. She experienced a moderate amount of leakage when she laughed, coughed or sneezed, and when she felt the need to void, it had to be RIGHT NOW. She managed her symptoms, for the most part at work and socially, but her symptoms were getting worse and the fear of leaking during sex had become all consuming. She started avoiding all levels of intimacy with her husband for worry it might lead to intercourse - and then what? She didn't even like telling her husband when she was on her period so how do you have that conversation. . . "sorry honey, I'm afraid I might pee on you.” Seriously! It was frustrating, scary and made her feel unattractive and old at 43.
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It's hard to feel confident and desirable when you feel broken. Then comes the anxiety, distrust, and soon her marriage was deteriorating. It seems crazy, when you think about it - why didn't she just explain the situation to her husband? But for many women I work with, there is this subconscious and pervasive sense of failure. They feel like they have this messed up body and if he knows, he will see me as somehow less than or imperfect or inferior - useless really. Is it social programming, is it childhood trauma, is it unrealistic expectations for yourself? Yes, perhaps any of that - but often we don't even recognize these subliminal messages and how they are keeping us from finding solutions. Of course, it didn't help when Emily finally mustered up the courage to talk with her doctor and he "couldn't see anything wrong" upon examination and told her to just practice starting and stopping her urine when she went to bathroom. (Worst advice ever by the way!). Of course, he could refer her to a urologist to consider surgical interventions or medication, and he could prescribe Lexapro or Zoloft for the anxiety and depression.
Broken some more - can't hold my pee, can't have sex, my husband doesn't find me desirable, and I'm crazy! Great -why didn't I go to the doctor sooner - right????
I have these conversations with people everyday. Maybe you've even joked about it with your girlfriends. But its not the "new normal" just because you've had a baby or just because you’re getting older. Yep, our bodies change and we have to learn new ways to manage and take care of ourselves. But just living with the dysfunction of incontinence is not one of those things. And just living with it can actually make things worse, because the truth is, it won't get better on its own and early stage incontinence can lead to full incontinence, bowel leakage and can be a sign that you are at risk for organ prolapse.
But guess what?? This condition is SO common and SO treatable! With research based techniques that are drug-free and non-invasive. I don't even have to see your nether regions to treat this!! What a bonus!!
Speaking of bonuses, I want you to be as well-informed as possible and feel confident getting the help you need to improve your quality of life - especially your sex life! You deserve it!