As you’re sitting in front of your doctor under the eerie fluorescent lights, you begin to shift on the exam table. You’re twiddling your thumbs, wondering if you should tell them about the spontaneous spritz you’ve been experiencing lately. You ask yourself, “is it really that big of a deal?” and brush it off as something to bring up next time. Then next time comes around and you push it off once more.
Or maybe you’ve never thought to tell your doctor about your leaks about it in the first place. Maybe you’ve chalked it up as a natural part of aging and have found your own solutions. (But wads of toilet paper and 10 extra pairs of underwear in your handbag aren’t really solutions, are they?)
Whichever situation sounds more like you, you’re in good company. Or, some kind of company anyway. In fact, only 1/3 of individuals between the ages of 30 and 70 have talked about their bladder health with their doctors. Are you surprised?
Why We’re Not Talking About It
The main reason we ladies are on the hush hush about our incontinence is because we’re embarrassed. And maybe mentioning it will embarrass our doctors too. But it doesn’t have to be a secret.
The other reason a lot of us don’t talk about leakage is because it doesn’t seem like a priority. If you brought your whole laundry list to your doctor’s appointment and bladder leakage is the last thing on your list, you’ll probably skip it. It may seem like a small problem, it’s not too small to share. Promise.
1. Find The Right Doctor
Truth is, it’s uncommon for primary care doctors to ask questions about your bladder unless you give them a reason to. So, if you’re afraid to start the conversation with your primary care doc, then consider going to a specialist. A urogynecologist specializes in helping women with pelvic floor issues, which means they hear cases like yours all day long. You’ll be preaching to the choir because they’ll already understand.
Other specialists that may start the conversation include urologists and gynecologists.
2. Dear (Bladder) Diary
One way to ease the embarrassment is to channel your inner A+ student and come prepared. Start tracking your leaks with a bladder diary and don’t be afraid to go into detail. Do you leak when you cough, laugh or sneeze? Write it down. Does it feel like a ball is sitting in your vagina? Make a note.
There’s nothing worse than being asked a question that you should know the answer to and having a complete brain fart. Brings back memories of those darn pop quizzes in high school. When you’re nervous or embarrassed, it’s easy to forget or stumble over your words. So, download a bladder diary and take it to your appointment. It can help you stay on track. Plus, when your doctor knows the details, then they’ll be able to tell you what type of incontinence you have.
3. The $64 Questions
Once you have your doctor picked out and a handy-dandy bladder diary, then you can prep for what the doctor might ask you. Prep for these questions to avoid being handed a curve ball. You are going to ace this thing. We know it.
- Do symptoms affect you during the day or night?
- What makes your symptoms worse?
- Tell me about your lifestyle. What’s your diet?
- Do you have children? How many? Did you have a C-section or vaginal delivery?
- What treatments have worked for you so far, if any?
4. Fire Off Your Questions
Do you have questions of your own? Don’t know what to ask? Prepare for that too. If you notice something in your bladder diary that troubles you, don’t be afraid to speak up. Remember, you’re in charge. You get to be the one to tell your bladder who’s boss. Plus, you just might learn something new. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What’s the cause of my leakage?
- What type of incontinence do I have?
- How can I protect myself from leaks?
- What are the side effects of the treatments you’re suggesting?
5. Your Leaks, Your Rules
Once you’ve discussed everything and have a diagnosis, your doctor may suggest some treatment options. Most doctors like to fix problems, so they may suggest surgery or medicine. But, these aren’t always the only options. You should know that up to 50% of people stop taking the drugs within a year because of the side effects. Would you want to replace leaks with dry mouth, constipation, an upset stomach, and hallucinations? Probably not.
So be your own advocate. Ask questions. Explore you options. Sometimes Kegels will do the trick. Maybe switch up your diet. You can even look into products specifically for bladder leakage. You’ve got this.
Do you have suggestions for how to start the conversation with your doctor? Tell us in the comments. Or, if you’re ready to tell your bladder who’s boss, start a trial with Lily Bird to get pads and underwear delivered right to your door.
By Jessica Thomas, MPH