Stress incontinence. Something we should accept as we grow older or not? Gail has got a bee in her bonnet about this one.
Goodbye hormones, it was nice knowing you
I will freely admit I am no longer in the first flush of youth. My hormones are dwindling. Looking in the mirror in the morning is becoming more of a fag. I watch the once so charming crows’ feet and laughter lines become entrenched furrows across my skin. I marvel at how many shades of grey my skin can exhibit and wonder how much Polyfilla I will soon need to hide the onset of maturity.
However, despite the early morning mirror torture, I feel pretty ok with the menopause. The hot flushes coupled with my hair changing texture have been weird yet interesting. I have even dealt with my brain packing its red spotted hankie and going travelling. Of course, Meg doesn’t actually believe I had much of a brain to begin with so is pretty dismissive of my brain fog.
The biggest gripe
My main gripe is my pelvic floor. Or lack of it. No longer do I enjoy a healthy, strong set of muscles that hold my innards in, not to mention keep my knickers dry. Yes, dear reader, I am struggling with stress incontinence.
We all know women should be diligent about their pelvic floor exercises and, to be fair, I do try to remember them. However, it seems I haven’t been remembering often enough and consequently I’ve had a few embarrassing moments recently. To put it another way, I have wet myself.
Does Meg really know what she’s talking about?
Meg and I discussed the problem at length over a bottle of wine at the wine bar in the high street. I needed the wine to fortify myself before explaining the issue to Meg. I feared one of her tedious homilies about not having diligently engaged my pelvic floor for all time and that she ALWAYS did hers x number of times a day.
Amazingly though, she was very understanding and admitted that she too was having a bit of a problem. Having got that out of the way, we started thinking about how we could improve our lot.
‘Do you really know how to do your exercises?’ I asked.
‘Of course I do’ came the staccato response.
‘Well’ I said, ‘then can you explain them to me in words of one syllable as I’m clearly doing something wrong’.
‘Errr, well, you just tighten everything up don’t you?’
‘So you don’t really know do you?
‘No’ she admitted.
Finding information on stress incontinence
I quickly googled stress incontinence. Did you know there are 22 pages of references ranging from incontinence undies to surgery with electronic devices in between (as it were)? It was mind-boggling. Among all the drastic measures and oddball suggestions, I did find a couple of helpful, say it how it is instruction leaflets and some useful tips on diet and fluids.
Armed with this information, I felt a bit better and was ready to crack on with my pelvic floor exercises from an informed position.
The line of least resistance
Better that is until I went to the local supermarket. In the sanitary protection aisle were bag upon bag of ‘discreet’ protective underwear for those ‘whoops moments’. Now, I know that pelvic floor exercises aren’t going to solve stress incontinence for everyone and the whole issue is complex and nuanced. The subject of wetting oneself is ghastly, embarrassing and distressing.
However, it seemed to me that the store was encouraging a line of least resistance. That it was ok to have stress incontinence and that everything could be made better by wearing pretty, discreet protective pants rather than looking holistically at the problem. Were there contact details for the local support nurse? No. Was there a helpful pelvic floor exercise leaflet available? No.
Gail gets cross
Why not? Surely it would be better for the big chains to be positively involved with health professionals in trying to solve the problem rather than pretend it isn’t happening, whilst increasing their profit margin. I have always found it deeply offensive that we have to pay for menstrual protection. Now, it seems, we are being further taxed into our menopause.
Men have stress incontinence too
Of course, stress incontinence isn’t just the preserve of menopausal women. Men struggle too. A fact that is all too often overlooked. It is interesting that, while it’s apparently ok to have adverts promoting protection for women, I can’t recall having seen anything surrounding the equivalent for men. If there is no advertising for male protection, does that mean that the problem doesn’t exist for the XY cohort? Of course not. In fact, they are just as in the dark or in denial as we are!! So why are there no adverts for discreet male protective pants? The sheer scale of gender inequality surrounding the issue is horrifying.
Let’s get the problem out in the open. Talk about it, seek help, seek informed medical advice and not go for the line of least resistance or the easy option.