Patient Perspective: My Husband Doesn't Understand My Incontinence

Patient Perspective: My Husband Doesn’t Understand My Incontinence

Are you like me? Do you live with someone who is unable to deal with your incontinence? I am sad to say that I do, and while it hasn’t always been easy, I’m starting to find ways to help my husband accept my problem. 

We’ve always been a carefree couple. Even in our early days we’d drop everything at a moments notice if a cheap flight to an exotic destination came along. We’d host impromptu parties with friends, go on vacations with other couples, and push ourselves to try new things like running marathons or participating in intense group workouts or races. 

And while we are still very much in love, and still like to be adventurous, in recent years, I’ve held back, because I suffer from incontinence.

I started noticing leaks when I was in my early 40’s. At first they were small, and didn’t happen very often. I brushed them off and still tried to do all the things we always had, without feeling the need to share this new development with my husband.

But after a while, the small leaks turned to bigger ones, and they were happening more and more frequently. I found that I couldn’t go out of the house without packing a spare change of clothes. I no longer wanted to just hop on a 5-hour flight to somewhere exotic where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find a bathroom, or worse, have an accident on the plane.  

I had to tell my husband what was happening, and while he was supportive, he didn’t understand why I couldn’t “just hold it”.  He started to grow resentful as I declined more and more invitations, and we soon began to have fights about it, often leaving me feeling ashamed and embarrassed because of my condition.

I decided that I needed to take matters into my own hands and help my husband understand. We started doing research together online and learned more about my condition, what causes it, and ways to better manage it.  And, I’ve talked with my doctor about ways to treat my incontinence so that I can do more of the things I love. 

It hasn’t been easy, and my husband still sometimes gets frustrated at my hesitation to do some of the things we used to, but educating ourselves, together, was one of the best things we could have done to get back on track. It’s helped us both learn that this is not my fault, and that there are ways to overcome it. And, despite his frustration, I’m glad my husband is pushing me to get treatment instead of hiding behind my condition. I’m confident that with my doctor’s help, I’ll soon be able to get back to many of the things that we used to enjoy, and can’t wait to feel like my old self again. 

Sylvie R., Rockport, Massachusetts

NAFC's Message Boards Provide A Safe Community For Incontinence Sufferers

Join The NAFC Message Boards And Online Community

NAFC is a huge proponent of opening up about your incontinence. Talking with others about what you’re experiencing can be very therapeutic. But, we know that speaking openly about something like incontinence is not always so easy.

That’s why we created the NAFC message boards. It’s a anonymous community that let’s our visitors talk openly about their bladder and bowel health issues without judgment. Our community is filled with a supportive and caring community ready to help with questions, share stories, or just lend a comforting ear.

Don’t believe us? Check out some of the message board posts from our community:

“Thank you for your kind words. This is the first time that I’ve ever opened up to anyone. I’m really happy that I found a place where people are supportive and can truly understand what I’m going through.”
“Posting here is a difficult step for me to take. I am too young for this – my 24th birthday is this month. But since there are many others on this forum that share in incontinence, I will give it a try.” 
“I am a 35 year-old woman and I have been suffering from incontinence at bedtime all my life. It’s made my social/dating life very hard. I’ve turned down proposals, as I’m too ashamed to tell my partner why we can’t live together. I’m desperate to stop this so I can live a normal life and have a husband partner. I’m happy I found this community.”
“Bedwetting started for me as a teen. It was occasional and a huge source of shame for me. And to continue into adulthood was just humiliating. Hear to listen and talk with anyone else who cares to support each other with this issue.”
“Hello everyone. I’ve read some of your posts and its nice to not feel quite so alone with these sorts of problems.”

You are not alone. There are others out there who understand what you’re going through, and who are willing to listen and provide support.

If you’re struggling with incontinence, or any other bladder or bowel condition, or if you’re caring for someone who is, join our community. We’re all here for you. Because no one should have to walk this path alone.

Patient Perspective: Debbie's Story

Debbie's Story - Supporting Her Husband With Incontinence

My husband suffers from incontinence. He has for years. He never thought I knew, but I noticed when he would rush to the bathroom with a change of underwear. I watched as he consistently sought out the restrooms anywhere we went. And I definitely noticed the changed bed sheets when I would come home from work due to leaks the previous night. 

I wanted so badly to help him. To talk with him about it. To tell him that I understand and that it is ok. But how do you tell an ex-army man whose very core is built on pride and being strong that you’re concerned about him wetting himself?

So, I stayed silent for years, and so did he, until finally he couldn’t anymore. We were out to dinner with friends when he had an accident, and had forgotten to bring along a spare pair of underwear. Panicked, he made up an excuse for us to leave immediately, and finally broke down in the car, telling me what I had known for years.

He was so ashamed, but I did my best to show him that I was supportive and didn’t think any less of him because of it. In the end, telling me was the best thing that could have happened, since I finally was able to help him.

We made an appointment to go see a doctor together, and he learned the many options available to him for treatment. He’s doing so much better now.

And though he still has some occasional leaks, he knows that he has me to lean on and doesn’t have to live with the stress of constantly trying to hide it.

I only wish I could have given him the courage to speak up sooner.
 
Debbie R., Omaha, NE

Patient Perspective: Brad's Story

Brad's Story - Opening Up About Incontinence

My friends and I are close. Growing up in a small town, we’ve always been there for each other – to joke with, lean on in hard times, and to razz each other. We have a tight-knit group of 5 and they’ve been my chosen family since I was 12. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since our early days, but here we all are.

I experienced incontinence after having my prostate removed in 2013. It wasn’t a fun thing to go through, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it, but the one thing that made it easier was that I knew to expect it – and that I wasn’t the only one.

You see, one of my buddies in our group, Joe, had also gone through something similar a few years back. He pulled me aside before surgery and told me that the worst thing that was going to happen was that I’d probably have some leaks – maybe a lot. It had happened to him for at least a year after his surgery and he said it was “hell “.

But he told me that the thing that had made it worse was not knowing it was coming, That was why he was talking to me – he wanted to me to know that I wasn’t alone. And, if it weren’t for his advice and pick-me-up talks, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that first year.

I’ve recovered well and don’t really experience the leaks anymore. But I still talk about it. Because that’s what we should all do with those we are close to. You never know who might benefit from your experience, or who might also go through something similar and just need a friend or to know they are not alone.

Don’t let your own embarrassment get in the way of opening up to your loved ones. I’m sure glad Joe didn’t.
 
Brad T., Auburn, AL

When To Seek Help For Bladder Leaks

When To Seek Help For Bladder Leaks

When To Seek Help For Bladder Leaks

Talking to someone about incontinence can be hard, (most people wait 7 years before seeing a doctor!) but it is often a necessary step in order to get the treatment you need. And while you may feel uncomfortable telling your doctor about your bladder leaks, remember that what you share with your doctor is likely something he or she has heard many times before. Incontinence is a very common (but not normal!) condition, and once you take the first step in opening up about it, it won’t seem as big of a deal as it may now.

So, how do you know it’s time to talk to someone? Hopefully, you’ve tried some of the tips we’ve discussed in the past (see our Step By Step Guide on things you can try). Often, making small changes to your behavior can make a big difference and can reduce or even eliminate symptoms of incontinence (aka - those pesky leaks or the constant visits to the bathroom).

If, after taking these steps you’re still having problems, it’s probably time to seek professional help. This is nothing to be ashamed of – different treatments work for different people. And the steps you’ve taken so far will help your doctor in determining a solution that might work better for you. So take notes during your self-treatment process and note what does and doesn’t make a difference. Then take them to your doctor and start the discussion.

Opening up about incontinence doesn’t have to be limited just to your doctor – your significant other, close friend or family may also be someone you’d like to share with. Don’t live with this condition in silence – many people who open up to loved ones learn that they are not alone – many other people experience urinary incontinence and it helps to be able to talk about it with those who understand.

Not only that, having someone in your corner as you make the changes needed to overcome and treat the bladder leaks can be invaluable. And, if you’re too nervous to talk to someone you know, there is always the NAFC Message Boards, which provide a safe place for you to share your concerns and thoughts with others like you.

So make that appointment, and follow along with us this week as we talk about how to talk with your doctor, and others, about incontinence!

Need an extra push to make a doctor's appointment? Sign up for our 8-Week Challenge

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Here are some other great posts to help you manage your incontinence and live a #LifeWithoutLeaks!

Accepting That You Have Incontinence

Types of Incontinence – The Break Down

Take The NAFC 8-Week Challenge

Men: Let’s Talk About Bladder Leakage

Why Incontinence Is A Condition We Need To Worry About

What You Can Do To Manage Bladder Leaks Before You See Your Doctor

Bladder Irritants And Your Diet

Finding An Absorbent Product That Works

Top 3 Things To Look For In An Absorbent Product

Three Things You Can Do Right Now to Fight Incontinence

Incorporating Pelvic Floor Exercises Into Your General Workout Routine

A Guide To Talking To Your Doctor About Bladder Leakage

A Guide To Talking To Your Doctor About Bladder Leakage

A Guide To Talking To Your Doctor About Bladder Leakage

Taking the first step in talking to your doctor about bladder or bowel issues is hard, but it’s a necessary part of getting treatment. Make the leap and find a specialist today so that you can start getting this problem under control and living your life again.

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.

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 or she may talk with you about or do during your appointment:

Your symptoms.

Your doctor will likely 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 or her 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?  He needs to know.

Physical examination. 

Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination.  He or 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 incontinence.  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.

Your wishes. 

It is important to note that while your doctor may suggest some options he or 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? Tell him!  Want to see if physical therapy may help?  Ask more about this option.  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!

Be Open

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.  This is your chance – give them any and all information that may help them assemble the best plan possible for you.

Need some more inspiration to talk to your doctor? Check out these inspirational stories from people who made the leap!

Ask The Expert: How Do I Know If My Bladder Leaks Are Serious Enough To Talk To A Doctor About?

When Should I Talk To A Doctor About Bladder Leaks?

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: How do I know if my bladder leaks are serious enough to talk to a doctor about?

Answer: This is a great question, and one that we wish more people would ask. Bladder leaks are a bit like a leaky faucet. Annoying at first, but something that most people ignore for a while. However, given too much time, what started as a small faucet leak can turn into a full-blown problem. The same is true with your bladder. What may start as an annoying occasional problem can get worse over time if left untreated. Many patients wait too long to get treatment, for a variety of reasons – they don’t think their problems is that bad, they are embarrassed to talk about it, they feel like they can manage it on their own. However over time, the condition can worsen and incontinence can truly become a part of daily life, which is something no one wants to deal with.

Here are three questions to ask yourself when wondering if you should get treated for bladder leaks:

  1. Is this problem affecting my daily life, even a little?

  2. Does it bother me that I have to make adjustments for my bladder leaks (like always finding the nearest bathroom when you’re out, bringing along a change of clothes just in case, or having the occasional leak.)?

  3. Will I feel upset years from now when I look back on this time, and wish that I had done more to treat this issue?

If you answered YES to any of the above three questions, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Any condition that is keeping you from living your fullest life is one that should be seen to. Don’t wait another minute – with so many treatment options, for bladder leakage there is just no reason to not get help.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Have a question you'd like answered? Contact us!

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me About Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

A Guest Blog By Sally Connor

I am a 38-year old woman, and I am angry. Angry that my body has changed so much since I’ve had children, angry that I developed a prolapsed bladder after the birth of my first son, angry that I can no longer run the way I used to without making several trips to the bathroom, or worse, wetting myself. I am angry with my doctors for not telling me that this may be a side effect of pregnancy and that there were steps I could have taken to prevent it. I’m angry with other women for not telling me that it has happened to them. I am angry for my sheer ignorance of the situation until it happened to me. But more than anything, I am angry that no one knows any of this because in our society, it feels too embarrassing to really talk about.

When we are young, we don’t think about these things. Before I had children, I don’t think that I ever even gave the pelvic floor much thought. Quite frankly, I didn’t even know what it was.  Here is what I didn’t know:  That the pelvic floor muscles act as a basket, supporting your bladder, uterus, and rectum. It is also connected to and supported by your deepest core muscles – your transverse abdominus (below the ‘six pack’ abs) and your multifidus (the tiny muscles that support the spine), and is affected by almost every movement you make.  The pelvic floor, what I now refer to as the epicenter of my body, is called upon every time you sit, stand, squat, walk, and even breathe. 

So I ask, why is it that we don’t hear more about this vital web of muscles? Why are we kept in the dark until it is too late? Because, really, much of this can usually be prevented. The pelvic floor, just like any other muscle in the body, can be strengthened and trained. With regular exercise, the pelvic floor and the supporting muscles around it can provide a strong foundation for continence for your entire life. But, like any other muscle, if it is already in a weakened state, and then becomes traumatized by something like childbirth, well, the damage is done. 

That is the case with prolapse. You can try to repair it, and may see marked improvement through physical therapy, or even surgery, but once the damage is done, it is done. 

It doesn’t mean that there is no hope though. I know this. I have seen great improvement in my symptoms and am grateful to have had access to a very skilled physical therapist who was able to show me how to strengthen things up ‘down there’. But, I still do experience some symptoms and I can’t help wonder if things would be the same had I been more aware of this muscle and what I should have been doing to keep it strong prior to and during pregnancy. 

With over 25 million Americans experiencing incontinence, I am baffled that the issue is not publically talked about more often. It is estimated that about 40% of women will experience prolapse at some point in their life. When will we decide that these conditions deserve attention? Talking about them would encourage more people to get help, and, maybe even more importantly, take steps to prevent it. 

Instead, the silence only encourages the shame, embarrassment, and isolation that many people with incontinence experience.  It does nothing to help those who are experiencing the issue to know there are ways to treat it.  Nor does it educate those who have not experienced it to know that this is something that should be considered. Until we can all be more open and recognize that this is a problem worth talking about (shouting about!), we will be a society that continues to allow it’s people to ‘quietly manage their symptoms’ instead of really preventing or treating them. 

So please, speak up about your incontinence, your prolapse, or any other pelvic floor issue you may have. While it may be common, it’s not normal, and is nothing that anyone should have to suffer with in silence.

About the author:  Sally Connor is a mother, wife, entrepreneur, and homemaker who suffered a prolapse after giving birth to her son. She has refused to let this symptom rule her life and strives to increase awareness of pelvic floor issues and what women can do about them by simply talking more about the issue.  She hopes that one day pelvic floor issues and incontinence will be a less taboo subject.