Here at Lily Bird we like to bring in the heavy hitters so you all get expertise and advice from the best of the best. That’s because telling your bladder who’s boss is better as a team sport. This week’s article is from our friends at the National Center for Continence. Thanks to Sarah for the collaboration.
Talking about incontinence is hard. Like, really hard. We understand that it can be embarrassing to bring up. But if there’s anyone who understands, it’s your doctor. She has likely counseled many women before you and knows the toll unexpected leaks can take. So it’s time to put your fears aside and speak up. After all, the only thing worse than talking about incontinence is leaving it untreated.
Here are a few tips to help the conversation go smoothly.
Prepare For Your Visit
Preparing for your visit and knowing what to expect can help make this conversation a bit less intimidating. Make sure you read up on the conditions and treatment options available so that you know the right questions to ask your doctor. It may help to write your questions down ahead of time so that you don’t forget them during the appointment, when your nerves can get the better of you. It may also help to keep a bladder or bowel diary for a few days prior to your visit, so that you can give your doctor (and yourself!) a good glimpse into your bathroom patterns. By keeping a diary you may even start to see some common links associated between your habits (what you eat and drink) and your urges or leaks.
Know What To Expect At Your Appointment
You may be wondering what to expect when you see your doctor. Here is a rundown on some things he may talk with you about or do during your appointment:
Your doctor will ask you to describe all the symptoms you are experiencing. This is where your trusty bladder diary that you’ve been filling out will come in handy. Review this with them and tell them anything else about your incontinence that is causing you trouble.
Your Medical History
Your doctor will want to know about all of your medical history, particularly details of childbirth and any pelvic surgery. Be sure to tell him about any other problems that may be related to your incontinence – bladder infections, difficulty urinating, neurologic problems such as back injury, stroke, or any gynecologic problems are all things that may play into your symptoms and help your doctor determine an appropriate treatment plan for you.
Prior Treatments For Incontinence
Talk with your doctor about what you’ve done to treat your incontinence, and how it has worked for you. Have you used medication? Had surgery? Any other procedures? She needs to know.
Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination. She may test your urine for infection or other problems, catheterize you to determine if you are emptying the bladder completely, or examine you while coughing and straining to see if that has any effect on your leaks. In more advanced cases, your doctor may also request that an X-ray or MRI of the bladder be done to get a better insight into what is happening.
It is important to note that while your doctor may suggest some options she feels are best for you, you have a strong say in your treatment plan too. Voice any concerns you have about certain treatment options and ask about ones that you are interested in. Not keen on medications? Say so. Want to see if physical therapy may help? Ask about it. Your wishes matter and your doctor will want to know the types of treatments you are willing to try. After all, by setting you up with a treatment plan you are on board with, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and experience success, which is exactly what your doctor wants for you. So speak up!
Above all else, be as open and honest about your condition as you can be. This can be an embarrassing and hard conversation to have, but know that you are speaking with a medical professional whose job it is to have these discussions. And trust us, you are most certainly not the first patient, nor will you be the last, to have this conversation with them. bThis is your chance – give them any and all information that may help them assemble the best plan possible for you.
Learn more about incontinence, and find tools to help you manage your condition, or join a community at the National Association For Continence website, nafc.org.