Yoga. Sneezing. Running. Laughing. Stretching.
Do any of those words give you, or someone you know a touch of anxiety?
Bladder leakage is a physical condition where you lose control over when and where you go to the bathroom. It’s normally associated with ageing, but common life experiences such as pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, prostate cancer, disease or injury mean that bladder leakage can happen across a variety of ages for a variety of different reasons.
In our society, private parts are kept hidden, bathroom visits kept discreet and anything different going on ‘down there’ is rarely talked about unless it’s behind closed doors in the doctor’s office, so when you start to experience something like uncontrollable bladder leakage - it’s easy to lose confidence, self-esteem and feelings of dignity very quickly.
Recently, Sarah shared her story with Confitex and talked to us about what it was like to work through and learn to manage life with bladder leakage. She has kindly agreed to let us share her story with you today in the hopes that you feel less isolated in your experience, and motivated to start working on your mental and physical health – starting today.
I was 47 when I started to get regular bladder leakage. I thought it was a condition reserved for older people, maybe over 65 or even 70, who were at an age where the body was in natural decline.
I had kids at what might be considered a pretty normal age in life. I had my first born just after I turned 29, and my second at 32. At the very late stages of both pregnancies, I experienced a bit of bladder leakage from the sheer weight of my belly - but things seemed to go back to normal once I had my kids, and by and large, save for a couple of uncomfortable moments when I was getting back into exercise, I seemed to dodge the bladder leakage bullet. It was often a bit of a joke at postnatal classes and wasn’t really talked about in a serious way, so I never really thought twice about it.
The first time I experienced uncontrollable bladder leakage, I was at the supermarket just shopping for fruit when I felt my bladder give and a warm stream start to trickle down my leg. I was able to hold some of it back, but ran out of the supermarket, got in the car and was mortified to find that my jeans were damp. I was so embarrassed I couldn’t bring myself to shop at that supermarket for a long time, even though I’m sure no one would have noticed that I’d leaked because my jeans were dark blue.
Bladder leaks started to happen more and more frequently after that. I became too afraid to go to the gym because any sort of physical exertion seemed to make me pee uncontrollably. I tried to go for walks on my own, but made sure the route I took had lots of public bathrooms handy in case I had an incident.
My social life suffered as I didn’t want any of my friends to find out what was happening to me. I couldn’t enjoy myself when I was worried about a laugh making me leak. Anything that put even a little bit of pressure on my bladder seemed to make me just.. Go! So I started to avoid social occasions and became uncharacteristically reserved.
For a long time, I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my husband. You can probably guess that our sex life and overall relationship suffered as a result. I eventually told him, but I didn’t like to talk about it so it remained unchartered territory. For me, it was all consuming, and I know that this unspoken tension had an affect on our kids, too.
You might think that I should have just bought absorbent pads or nappies and got on with it, but I didn’t feel quite ready to commit to that. I used to buy them for my husbands’ mum when she was 72, so walking to the checkout counter with a packet of the things knowing they were for myself was a hard concept to get my head around. Even though the checkout operators would have had no idea and probably didn’t care, it just felt awful knowing I was buying them for myself and I became convinced they would all start laughing at my expense the second I left the store. Out of necessity, I eventually did start to buy them online, but when I wore them I felt.. like a total failure. They were expensive. I was sure they smelled like wee. And I had to carry a wad of them around with me at all times.
As you can probably tell, I was not a happy camper. I had experienced bladder leaks for over a year before I decided to actually talk to someone about it. It seems crazy now, but I didn’t want to admit it to anyone because it made it seem all the more real.
My doctor didn’t even blink twice when I told her, and recommended I see a physio and start doing Kegel exercises (pelvic floor strengthening exercises to improve bladder control). She told me there were some Kegel exercise specialists in my area, and mentioned some online forums that might be helpful to join. I had no idea it was such a widespread issue, so it was reassuring to learn that I wasn’t alone in my experience. She also suggested I try a brand of reusable, absorbent underwear designed to manage multiple bladder leaks across a day as a way to make me feel confident to stay active. Confitex was the brand – and to this day, I don’t know what I would have done without them. When I wore them, I stopped being continually anxious and physically stressed and could actually focus on things beyond my bladder leakage.
Confitex underwear gave me the freedom to get on with what I wanted and needed to do without having to worry about embarrassing leaks. Although they didn’t stop my bladder from giving out, wearing Confitex meant that I knew that my leaks were supported and the more I wore them, the more confident I felt to get stuck in to Kegel exercises, socialising and getting physically fit again.
I’m now 52 and although I still experience the odd leak, I control my bladder more than it controls me. The more comfortable I am with my body, the more I feel able to share my experiences as a way to lift others out of what can be an incredibly lonely experience. I’ve learnt that the more insular you become, the less capable you feel – so my recommendation would be to do your future self a favour, and start taking action to reclaim your physical and mental confidence today.
Confitex would like to thank Sarah for sharing her powerful story with us. We don’t want bladder leaks to hold you or your loved ones back, which is why we designed our underwear with freedom in mind.