After menopause, many women find that they have issues with bladder weakness and urinary incontinence. Although it’s a very common problem, it can be frustrating and embarrassing. However, there’s no reason why bladder issues should hold you back, or stop you from doing the things you want to do!
With summer approaching, we take a look at what you can do to help stay comfortable and confident.
What causes incontinence after menopause?
The hormone oestrogen is responsible for helping to maintain the tissues in the body, including keeping the muscles in the pelvis (the pelvic floor) strong and supple, which helps to support the bladder and bowel.
As a woman approaches menopause, their oestrogen levels begin to fall. This can cause a thinning and weakening of body tissues, including the vagina, the lining of the urethra (the tube that comes out of the bladder) and the pelvic floor.
These changes can lead to problems with stress incontinence – a leakage of urine (wee) particularly when you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise or lift something. A drop in oestrogen can also cause an irritated or overactive bladder, leading to urge incontinence – a strong, sudden or frequent need to urinate, which you may not be able to control or react to in time.
You may also find that you need to go to the bathroom several times in the night (known as nocturia).
The good news is, there are lots of things that can help to relieve the impact of incontinence on your day to day life, including during the summer months.
Coping with incontinence after menopause
Whether you’re based at home or travelling away, by planning ahead and making some simple changes you can make things easier to manage.
Eat a balanced diet
Eating a varied diet, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to minimise the impact of incontinence.
Your diet should include plenty of fibre, which will help to regulate your digestive system and prevent constipation, which can make urinary incontinence worse.
Certain foods can also irritate the bladder, including spicy foods, tomato, citrus and artificial sweeteners, so try to stick to plainer foods that you know are bladder-friendly, as far as possible.
Keep well hydrated
While it might seem like the last thing you’d want to do, drinking plenty of fluids is essential if you’re suffering from incontinence after menopause – especially during those hot summer months!
Not drinking enough can lead to dehydration, which can make your urine more concentrated, irritating your bladder further. It can also cause constipation, which places further pressure on the bladder.
Tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, citrus and alcohol are known to irritate a sensitive or overactive bladder, so you should try to minimise the cappuccinos and holiday cocktails and opt instead for water, dilute squashes and herbal teas. Cranberry juice is also known to help reduce the risk of urinary infections.
Drinking small, regular amounts and having drinks at room temperature can also reduce the stress on your bladder. Many people find that sipping from a bottle of water can help to keep their fluid levels up in hot weather. You can also supplement your fluids with juicy summer foods such as watermelon and cucumbers.
Finally, to help minimise those nighttime trips to the bathroom, you should try to limit the amount of drinks you have in the evening.
Make regular stops
If you’re going on a day trip or a holiday, you should factor in plenty of comfort breaks. If you have a smartphone, you can download a toilet locator tool.
Make a point of visiting the bathroom before the start of any journey – and if you’re travelling by plane or coach it’s worth booking an aisle seat. Make sure you also have plenty of spare change to hand for any pay toilets!
Stock up on supplies
It’s a good idea to take plenty of supplies along with you on the journey, including pads and underwear, antiseptic wipes, hand gel and plastic bags. That way you can help to stay clean and fresh and avoid any unnecessary worry, discomfort or heat rashes. If you’re travelling abroad it’s a good idea to pack some extra supplies in your suitcase, too.
Take some waterproof bedlinen
Whether you’re staying with friends or away on holiday, if you’re worried about nighttime leaks there’s a wide range of products which can help to protect your bed and offer you peace of mind, including disposable bed pads and waterproof mattress protectors:
“This cover is extremely helpful and it doesn’t crinkle or rustle like others I’ve tried, which is great.” Live Better With community member
You can also get waterproof bedlinen, including waterproof fitted sheets which are soft, comfy and machine washable.
Many people also find it helpful to use waterproof bedding at home, such as waterproof and wipe clean duvets, and waterproof duvet covers. So wherever you are, you can relax and enjoy a good night’s rest!r
Do pelvic floor exercises
Doing some simple exercises every day – known as kegel exercises – can help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and reduce the risk of leakage. This involves clenching the muscles around the back passage, vagina and urethra (it can help to imagine that you’re stopping yourself from going to the toilet). Hold the muscles for two seconds, and then relax for two seconds.
Do this 5-10 times in a row, and repeat the exercise 3 times a day. The good news is, they’re easy to any time, anywhere – even on the beach. No-one will ever know!
Visit the bathroom before sex
Incontinence after menopause can cause worry and embarrassment in the bedroom. You can help to feel more relaxed and reduce the risk of leaks by emptying your bladder beforehand. You could also try a position which puts less pressure on the bladder and urethra. Kegel exercises can also help to improve sensation.
What to wear with incontinence after menopause
With summer coming, many women feel under extra pressure when it comes to what to wear with incontinence after menopause. However, it doesn’t have to stop you from feeling stylish or wearing what you want to.
Many women find that wearing loose, comfortable clothing that’s made from breathable fabrics, such as cotton, linen or bamboo, can help them to stay cool and allow the air to circulate. The same principle also applies to what you wear underneath: you want underwear that’s comfortable and breathable.
Incontinence pants for summer
Confitex Women's Washable Incontinence Underwear Lace Full Brief
Wearing the right incontinence underwear is key to helping you stay confident during the summer. Nowadays, there is a range of different types of incontinence underwear available, from disposable pants and pads, to modern, fully washable underwear with an added touch of style.
Disposable incontinence pants
For heavy bladder weakness, disposable incontinence pants offer security and convenience when you’re on your travels. They look and feel like underwear, and are easy to use and dispose of.
Pants with disposable pads
Meanwhile, some incontinence pants are designed for wearing with disposable pads and can be washed as normal pants. The Live Better With community recommend Tena fix pants, which can be washed up to 50 times.
Fully washable incontinence pants
The Live Better With range of washable incontinence pants offers the ultimate in discreet, effective and comfortable protection against light or moderate leaks.
They include special eco-friendly three-layer technology which draws away moisture, prevents leaks and odours, and eliminates the need to wear a pad. They come in a range of different sizes, styles and colours.The Basic full brief offers a high waistline and full coverage with a lace trim, while the Lace
Confitex Women's Washable Incontinence Underwear Lace Full Brief features stylish lace panels.
Made from bamboo, which is naturally soft, comfortable and moisture-wicking, they can be washed and tumble dried as normal underwear without losing absorbency:
“I could NOT believe how great these are when I bought them. Super convenient, discreet, and have completely changed my life. Get a pair! Don't wait!” Live Better With community member
Meanwhile, the Lace boy leg has a lower waist and pretty lace detailing. Or for a modern hip-hugging option, try the Basic hipster which has a mid-height waistline, or the Hipster lace which has an elegant lace trim panel and waistband.
With so many great options available, whether you want to wear a stylish pair of linen trousers or a floaty summer dress, there’s really no need to worry.
Incontinence after menopause can be a frustrating and worrying experience, but there are lots of things you can do to help make you feel more comfortable, more confident, and most importantly enjoy the summer!
Do you have tips on coping with bladder issues and incontinence after menopause? Looking for advice and support? Why not join the Live Better With Menopause community forum.