Mon 15, Mar 2021
As you go through life, your body changes with you. Read to find out how significant life events can mean different things for bladder, bowel and pelvic health.
There’s more to menopause than people speak about. We challenge the myths so you can understand how to look after your bladder and bowel health – before and after menopause.
EARLY MENOPAUSE means going through menopause before the age of 45. Early menopause can happen after medical treatment such as removal of the ovaries and chemotherapy for cancer.
PERIMENOPAUSE is the time leading up to the last period (can be years). This is the stage where many of the symptoms we think of as menopause actually happen. Common experiences in perimenopause include changes to menstrual cycle and periods, hot flashes, trouble sleeping, mood and mental health changes, bladder and bowel symptoms.
MENOPAUSE means it has been 12 months since the last period. Post-menopause is the time after this point.
How it can affect your bladder and bowel health
During the menopausal transition, the body starts to have less oestrogen (a sex hormone needed for the female reproductive system). Many women notice changes to their bladder and bowel health, including:
- A weaker pelvic floor – Because we usually lose muscle mass with age, the pelvic floor muscles can weaken. This can lead to experiencing urinary or faecal incontinence, urine loss with coughing and sneezing, or needing to rush to the toilet more often.
- Vaginal dryness – Oestrogen helps create mucus, and with less of this in the body, the vagina and urethra (bladder tube) can become drier. This can be painful and irritating as well as put you at higher risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and incontinence.
- Prolapse – Some factors, especially a weaker pelvic floor, mean pelvic organ prolapse is more likely to happen after menopause.
- A less elastic bladder – With age, it’s harder for the bladder to stretch (less elastic) and this can cause an overactive bladder. An overactive bladder will cause you to pass urine more frequently.
- Symptoms from childbirth – Some women experience damage to their anal sphincter (muscle around the anus) during birth but don’t have symptoms until later in life. Faecal incontinence because of this damage most commonly starts in perimenopause.
There is help for all of these changes. These could include pelvic floor muscle training, bladder training, vaginal oestrogen cream or an oestrogen pessary, lifestyle changes and surgery. Health professionals can guide you to help for your individual situation.
This story was first published in Bridge Magazine. Subscribe and receive Bridge straight to your inbox.