Incontinence is amazingly common - especially if you've had a baby - yet most of us don't talk about it. Although an astonishing number of women accidentally wet themselves every day by laughing, sneezing, coughing and jumping, we tend to think it's just something we have to put up with.
Until recently there were really only two invasive options for urinary incontinence — surgery or injected fillers — but now there is a non-invasive, painless, FotonaSmooth laser treatment which one of Singapore’s leading urologists, Prof Peter Lim Huat Chye, Senior Consultant Urologist at Gleneagles Hospital, says will revolutionise the treatment of urinary leaks in Singapore.
However, if you don't want to see a doctor yet (even though we highly recommend it!), here are some simple solutions that do not involve drugs or surgery:
1. Kegel Exercises
Kegels refer to pelvic floor exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles. They basically involve flexing the same muscles you use to stop the urinary flow and is very useful for the early stages of incontinence and also to maintain pelvic floor tone over time.
2. Lose Weight
Excess belly fat puts pressure on the bladder and the pelvic muscles so shedding a few pounds if you are overweight can help restore your bladder control. Maintain your weight can also help reduce the severity of your urinary incontinence.
Read more: 5 TCM tips for weight loss
3. Bladder Training
Our mums always used to tell us not to hang on or to 'go and have a wee just in case', but this gets your bladder to develop bad habits. And contrary to what we were always told, "hanging on"; when our bladder is getting full is actually the best way of getting it to work properly again.
4. Vitamin D & Magnesium
According to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, vitamin D doesn't just protect bones. Higher levels of vitamin D are also linked to a lower risk of pelvic floor disorders, including urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Magnesium may also ease incontinence worries!
Read more: 3 tips to prevent osteoporosis
5. Quit Smoking
A small study conducted at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki in Greece suggests that heavy smokers are more likely to be incontinent than nonsmokers because nicotine can actually irritate the bladder. It also causes coughing, which is a risk factor in developing stress-related urinary incontinence.
If you have incontinence, you might consider acupuncture. This ancient traditional practice can re-route energy imbalances that cause urinary leaks, as incontinence not stems from the bladder and kidneys but from other parts of the body such as the lungs and heart.
According to some research, hypnotherapy may help patients feel more in control of the body - in this case the bladder and muscle contractions - by putting the patient in a state of deep relaxation and heightened concentration.
8. Reduce Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is known to excite the brain, and since the control of the bladder is in the frontal lobe of our brains, this heightened level of excitement may effect on the bladder as well. It's best to avoid or restrict your coffee consumption completely if you have incontinence.
Read more: Higher caffeine intake may prolong pregnancy
9. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water and other fluids is crucial in managing incontinence. If you don't stay hydrated, you may end up constipated, which can irritate the bladder and cause incontinence.
10. Geisha Balls (Ben Wa)
Sex toys known as Ben Wa or geisha balls, which were originally designed centuries ago to improve sexual sensation, can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. This is because the muscles you use to keep the weighted balls in place in the vagina are the same muscles you are working in pelvic floor exercises.
Read more: 5 discreet sex toys to take on your vacation
This story was first published in Singapore Women's Weekly.