Firstly, what is incontinence?Urinary incontinence is when you can’t control when you wee. Besides being a health issue, it can affect social life and confidence levels. There are a few different kinds of incontinence.
- Stress urinary incontinence happens when you sneeze, jump, or work-out and usually is a small leak.
- Urge incontinence happens when you have the urge to wee all of a sudden and then leak, usually a larger amount of urine leaks.
- Overactive Bladder (OAB) Syndrome happens when your bladder squeezes/contracts throughout the day and night, which makes you need to wee ASAP, but not much time to get to a toilet. If you have OAB, you may need to wee frequently throughout the day and a small amount each time.
- Mixed urinary incontinence is when you experience both stress and urge incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence happens when your bladder doesn’t empty as it should and becomes very full.
- Nocturia is when you need to wee at night.
Ok, so what causes incontinence?Basically, incontinence is due to a problem with your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles provide support for your bladder, uterus, and bowel. Common causes that lead to pelvic floor problems (and therefore, potentially incontinence) are:
- Pregnancy and giving birth
- Severe obesity/being very overweight
- Chronic constipation – this means you’re probably straining a lot when you poo
- Chronic coughing – also puts strain on the pelvic floor muscles
- High-impact exercises – there is a way to be mindful of the pelvic floor during exercises, so work with a trainer who is aware of that
- Some medications
- Menopause – the hormone changes and ageing can affect your muscle strength
Wait, can I do anything about incontinence?Here are tips from Maisie Hill’s book “Perimenopause Power” on how to address urinary incontinence:
- Don’t be afraid to tell your GP! Even if you only have small leaks occasionally, it’s best to start treatment sooner so things don’t get worse.
- See a pelvic health physiotherapist – your GP can refer you or you can see one privately.
- Stay hydrated! If you’re dehydrated, your urine will be more concentrated which can irritate your bladder, urethra (the tube that lets urine out), and your vulva.
- Don’t go “just in case”, wait until you actually feel the need to go.
- Don’t wait until you’re ready to burst either!
- Don’t try to squeeze it out or go quickly.
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, and fizzy drinks.
You said I can use reusable pads for incontinence, right?You sure can! Remember, you should seek out treatment from a medical health professional if you experience any kind of incontinence. Using reusable cloth pads in the meantime should be a temporary solution.
Things to look for when choosing reusable pads for incontinence.
- Is there a waterproof layer?
- This will help prevent leaks, which is especially important for accidental wees.
- Keep in mind that urine is much different than period blood.
- You’ll probably want a higher absorbency for incontinence since wee leaks come out quicker and are more liquidy compared to period blood.
- A quick-absorbing top-layer will help you feel dryer and be more comfortable.
- Consider how much you usually leak.
- If it’s a small amount, you might be comfortable with just a pad.
- If it’s a larger amount, make sure you look at the absorbency rating and consider investing in period underwear/leak-proof underwear as an added layer of protection.
- Look into getting a waterproof storage bag for used pads
- This can be a lifesaver if you’re out-and-about and need to change a pad. Go for one that has a waterproof section for used pads and a section for storing clean pads. (We sell one at Lilypads!)
Reusable pads for incontinence: Confidence, not compromiseWe don’t want you to have to compromise any part of your life due to incontinence. Sometimes our bodies don’t seem to be working with us, but that’s a signal that they need attention. Please seek out help from a GP or other health professional if you experience incontinence, even if it seems minor or infrequent. While you work with them, know that you can still be confident in all activities with reusable cloth pads (or whatever product works best for you).
Do you have any incontinence experiences you’re willing to share with us? Or any questions about incontinence and using reusable cloth pads? Please share below!
Hill, M. (2021). Perimenopause Power. Green Tree
NHS Scotland. Urinary incontinence – Illnesses & conditions | NHS inform
Written by Morgan Ludington
March 31, 2021
Edited by Lilypads