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