There are awkward moments on the school run.This article is written for many people who suffer underwear incontinence.Far too many of us feel so hideously self-conscious about not having control of our bladders that we don’t even tell our elders.
Many people don’t seek medical help earlier for such a debilitating problem.
This problem affects around one in four women, particularly after childbirth. There’s absolutely nothing to feel ashamed about — and much can be done to help.
Underneath, we are discussing a case study:
I was 27 when, following the birth of Harry, the second of my four sons, I discovered that if I needed to ‘go’, there was no hanging on for a convenient moment — I simply couldn’t hold it in.
Wherever I was, my bladder didn’t care: I was on red alert every time I left the house, always desperate to know where the toilets were in case I needed to go urgently.
By then, it was happening when I exercised or if I ran after the children. Playing with them in the garden should have been fun, but I’d be so busy concentrating on my pelvic floor that I couldn’t relax. Time and again I’d have to stop play so I could go and change.
I work hard to keep fit, and go to the gym several times a week, but I was limited in the exercises I could do: the treadmill was out of bounds, as was lifting weights.
I have a personal trainer, and I’d tell him: ‘Please don’t ask me to do that.’ Of course, the whole point of having someone train you is that they push you to try tough new things.
Eventually, I explained I wasn’t being difficult — and told him why there were certain exercises I couldn’t risk. He was great about it, but I still cringe at the memory.
I’d come up with an excuse — perhaps that I was running late or feeling unwell. Anything other than admit I couldn’t get out of the car because I’d sneezed so much on the short drive to school that the bottom half of my clothes were damp.
But all that paled in comparison with the humiliation I felt the day I took my sons to a park and had an accident in front of everyone.The older boys love going, so I’d take them along. But I’d always insist on watching from the side.
How many women suffer from incontinence?
The NHS estimates that only one in five women will seek medical help for their incontinence problem.One afternoon, they were having so much fun and kept pleading with me to have a go, too. A couple of bounces can’t hurt, I told myself. But that was all it took for me to lose control of my bladder.
I was wearing a light grey tracksuit, and couldn’t hide what had happened. I can still remember how mortified I felt hurrying the boys out of there, appalled and so sorry for my children who couldn’t understand why we had to leave.
I have a friend who has the same problem — and won’t even confide in her own husband. ‘How will he fancy me if he knows?’ she says.
I can’t imagine he’d be anything other than supportive.I could be at the most fabulous party, but be totally unable to enjoy myself because I felt constantly on edge.
And yet, like most women, I thought that this was something I’d just have to live with — one of those problems that go with the territory once you’ve had a baby.I resigned myself to living with the problem.It wasn’t until I realised how many of my friends were suffering, too, that I started to investigate treatments. And I’m so glad I did, because there really is help available.Your doctor can refer you to a specialist who will teach you exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor.
In the more serious cases, it could be that surgery is needed to correct things. In the end, what worked for me was a ten-minute laser treatment at Aesthetically You in Liverpool, using a wand device to stimulate the production of collagen in affected areas.
Called Femilift, it may sound a bit like a fancy facial treatment — but it’s already putting me back in control of my body. I am on session one of three (three is recommended) at a total cost of £2,000.
I’m now able to play football with my sons. Even better, after I spoke publicly about my problems last week, I was inundated with messages from women who had been suffering for years but now felt inspired to get help.
It was hard to talk so openly about such an intimate problem, but knowing it’s had that kind of positive effect has made me so glad I did.
I only hope that we are moving towards removing this problem once and for all, so that more women like me can find the help they need.