Embarrassed to Discuss Incontinence with Your Doctor?

Woman Talking to Dr.Many women who suffer from incontinence, the involuntary loss of urine, find it embarrassing to discuss with their physicians. Yet being open with their doctors can put them on the path to finding a solution.

“Incontinence can vary between very mild to incapacitating,” says James Gildner, MD, with Memorial Physician Services – Women’s Healthcare. “Not only is it frustrating, it can be socially embarrassing or even debilitating.”

Up to 30 million women in the United States have experienced bladder leakage issues, according to the National Association for Continence. About one in four new moms experience leaking after normal delivery, and about one in six after a Cesarean section.

Incontinence falls into one of two main categories: urgency incontinence and stress incontinence.

Urgency incontinence occurs when a woman has “a sudden urge to empty her bladder and has to literally make a mad dash for the bathroom,” Dr. Gildner said. It can awaken women at night, causing them to have to get up multiple times to go the bathroom. In the day, they can have a sudden urge to empty their bladders at any time and can have a hard time keeping it controlled until they reach a restroom.

Urgency incontinence is usually more common as women age.

“It can be a mild nuisance or at times an incapacitating problem, especially for patients with limited mobility,” Dr. Gildner said.

Stress incontinence usually occurs when the bladder has weakened or dropped. The bladder will leak urine when triggered by something such as coughing, sneezing, laughing or lifting. It’s more common in women who have had children, especially if they’ve had several vaginal births.

While some women find incontinence embarrassing to discuss with their physicians, others won’t bring it up because they assume it’s a normal part of aging. Many women, however, will be hesitant to discuss incontinence unless their doctor brings it up. And physicians will assume all is well if women don’t mention it.

If women find incontinence to be only a minor frustration, many will just leave it alone. For some women with mild leakage caused by stress incontinence, pelvic-floor exercises may help.

For those with more urgent problems, medication and surgery are options that may help them. One nonsurgical option is a medical device called InTone, said Dr. Gildner, who was recently certified to prescribe it.

The device strengthens muscle tone in a woman’s pelvic floor by combining a daily exercise program, voice-guided instruction, biofeedback and micro-current stimulation. It treats both forms of incontinence.

“Women who have used InTone so far have had good results in improving their incontinence, avoiding the side effects of medication and the pain and risks of surgery,” Dr. Gildner said.

Because there are many options, like InTone, available to help women with incontinence, they should discuss the issue with their physicians, Dr. Gildner said. Overcoming a little embarrassment during a conversation is likely to stave off more embarrassment from a condition that may get worse without treatment.