Stigma is defined as the disapproval of or discrimination against someone based on something about them. Do you ever feel stigmatized because of your unruly bladder? Do you maybe even stigmatize yourself?
The stigma surrounding bladder leaks started a long time ago when our parents potty trained us. Our parents taught us that peeing on yourself was bad so since then, we’ve tried to avoid it like the plague. But life happens. Childbirth happens. Injuries happen and so…leaks may happen too. And they happen to the best of us.
It can be difficult to think beyond a stigmatized condition, urinary incontinence being one. So how can we empower ourselves and others to combat bladder leak stigma? Here are 5 ways to get you started.
1. Embrace Your Emotions
Understand this: you’re not your condition! However, you’re also not expected to be positive and happy about it all the time. It is okay to feel different, sad, or out of place. Whatever emotions you may be feeling, it’s important to let yourself feel them.
2. You Aren’t Alone
Sometimes it can be comforting to know that you aren’t the only one suffering from bladder leaks. In fact, about 25 million American adults and 200 million adults worldwide suffer from a form of urinary incontinence. And celebs and popular figures aren’t excluded. Celebrities like Katy Perry, Kris Jenner, Stephen King, and Samuel L. Jackson have even reported suffering.
3. Find Your Tribe
Knowing you aren’t alone and accepting your emotions is the first step to combating stigma. You have to work on that “inward” stuff and combat any stigma you’re holding against yourself before you can work on the people around you. But then what?
First off, surround yourself with people that understand what you’re going through and can offer advice or help. These people are your tribe. There are many different online groups such as Daily Strength or the National Association for Continence (NAFC) that you can check out. Researching, inquiring, joining and learning are all tasks that can open your eyes to a relatable community around you.
It’s human nature to stigmatize things we aren’t familiar with. So, help those around you by educating them. Come into conversation with a few facts ready to share. Even better, start the conversation yourself. Plus, this may help you discovery new friends and allies. You’d be surprised at just how many women are going through what you are. Approximately one in four women over the age of 18 have a leaky bladder.
5. Fighting For Confidence
While bladder leaks are common in both men and women, it is much more common in women for reasons including childbirth, pregnancy, and menopause. Lucky us! Health events like these can weaken the pelvic muscles that support the bladder over time and eventually lead to leaks. And of course leaks can lead to us to feeling a little less confident and in control. Fortunately, you can regain your confidence, which will help you fight the stigma in your own mind and also feel more comfortable combating stigma from others. Here are some ways to tell your bladder who’s boss and make you feel empowered and fight the stigma.
Exercise Those Muscles
Pelvic floor exercises such as Kegels can help those suffering from stress incontinence and urge incontinence. You can easily incorporate these exercises into your daily routines up to three times a day to strengthen your pelvic muscles. You can do these exercises almost anywhere, including your desk at work or simply while watching your nightly show on the couch. It usually takes a few weeks to a few months to see results.
Don’t discredit the magic of a simple absorbent bladder leak product. Just wearing pads or disposable underwear can make you feel more comfortable and confidence and reduce the fear of leaks in public. Absorbent products fight stigma in their own way, starting with how you feel about your leaks and proving that it can be managed. NAFC actually did a study that found that individuals who felt positively about wearing absorbent products said it was because it made them feel more protected and in control. Sounds like a win to me! If you’re unsure what products are right for you, be sure to try this recommendation quiz from Lily Bird. Lily Bird has both pads and underwear and even has a trial for you to take advantage of.
There are a few other tactics for treatment too, such as medication. Botox injections about once every three months in the bladder can help if other treatments don’t work. Then there’s nerve stimulation, which uses mild electric pulses to stimulate nerves in the bladder. Bladder sling surgery can also be performed for extreme cases.
Support Goes A Long Way
Above all, support one another. By just providing a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or actively seeking steps to better yourself, that’s already the start of combating stigma. Always remember: you are not your condition.
If you’re looking for a confidence boost, absorbent products can help. Lily Bird has you covered with pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas, delivered right to your door. Start your trial today.
By Jessica Thomas, MPH