National Continence Helpline Manager, Sue Blinman, answers some frequently asked continence questions.
Q. I didn’t experience any leaking after childbirth so thought I had avoided pelvic floor issues. I’m now 50 and am starting to experience urinary incontinence when I cough and sneeze. Does this incontinence still have something to do with childbirth?
A. Childbirth is one of the main causes of pelvic floor disorders causing incontinence; however, other common causes of a weakened pelvic floor include obesity, heavy lifting and the associated straining of chronic constipation.
I would recommend consulting with a continence professional and learning how to exercise the pelvic floor muscles correctly. A professional can teach you how using these muscles to brace your pelvic area prior to sneezing or coughing can eliminate or reduce the leakage.
If your incontinence persists after this, you would benefit from seeing a doctor that can help you with the onset of menopause and assess whether your incontinence may need to be treated with surgery.
Q. My mum is approaching 70 and has mentioned to me that she has occasional incontinence. She thinks it’s too late to do anything about it and is embarrassed. How can I convince her that she doesn’t have to put up with it?
A. It is never too late to get help with incontinence. Try emphasising to her that age is not a cause or reason for incontinence. If your mother is willing to learn how to manage her incontinence, then there is no barrier to her receiving treatment.
I would advise that she sees a continence professional like a continence nurse advisor or pelvic floor physiotherapist. They can complete a full assessment and work out which type of incontinence your mother has and how best to help her. This may involve teaching her how to correctly do pelvic floor muscle exercises, modifying her diet and fluids and/or finding continence products like pads that best suit her needs.
For more confidential information and advice, call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.