Q& A

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - UPDATE -

II am a 56-year-old woman and ever since I had my first child at 28, I have suf­fered from in­con­ti­nence. It started off fairly mild but af­ter an­other four chil­dren and the pas­sage of time, it has got fairly bad, to the ex­tent that I wear in­con­ti­nence pads daily. It hits at the usual times — cough­ing, sneez­ing, laugh­ing. Last year, my hus­band left me, prob­a­bly partly as a re­sult of the loss of con­fi­dence I suf­fered be­cause of the in­con­ti­nence, which wasn’t good for our re­la­tion­ship. I would re­ally like to get this sorted so that I can start a new life and maybe be­gin dat­ing again. How would I go about it? Is there a pro­ce­dure I can get done on the pub­lic sys­tem? If not, I have a bit of money saved, which I would be happy to spend. T ap­pears you are talk­ing about uri­nary in­con­ti­nence. This is loss of blad­der con­trol. Leak­age can oc­cur when cough­ing or sneez­ing (stress in­con­ti­nence) or you may have a strong urge to pass urine which may limit your abil­ity to get to a toi­let on time (urge in­con­ti­nence). Mixed in­con­ti­nence is a com­bi­na­tion of the two. In­con­ti­nence of the bowel can also oc­cur. Dam­age to the spinal cord or pelvic in­jury may also lead to in­con­ti­nence.

Uri­nary in­con­ti­nence is ex­tremely com­mon and is thought to af­fect up to one in three women. One in five will re­quire surgery at some stage in their life for this con­di­tion. Preg­nancy, child­birth, obe­sity and pelvic floor dam­age all in­crease the risk. It is im­por­tant to know that, al­though it is more com­mon with age, it is not a nor­mal part of age­ing.

De­spite the fact that it is ex­tremely com­mon, there is still a huge stigma around uri­nary in­con­ti­nence. Ir­ish women are very slow to talk openly about their is­sues to friends and fam­ily and even their GP. This shouldn’t be the case. There are treat­ment op­tions avail­able and they can be very ef­fec­tive.

Phys­io­ther­apy and Kegel ex­er­cises, which work on cre­at­ing proper tone in the pelvic floor, are the first port of call. There are phys­io­ther­a­pists who spe­cialise in this area and they can ad­vise you as to how toned or un­toned your pelvic floor is. There are a num­ber of de­vices on the mar­ket that help tone the pelvic floor. The new­est of these is the In­novo de­vice pro­duced by an Ir­ish com­pany. It has elec­trodes in pads that help stim­u­late pelvic mus­cles, thus en­abling proper ex­er­cis­ing of the pelvic floor.

Un­for­tu­nately, pub­lic ac­cess to pelvic floor phys­io­ther­apy can take months, and pri­vate ac­cess or de­vices such as In­novo can be ex­pen­sive. It is a pity we are not more like France where

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