Are you one of the 4.8 million Australian women suffering in silence?

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Incontinence is now faced by over 4.8 million Australian women

– yet many of these women suffer in silence, embarrassed to seek help due to the deep stigma surrounding the issue and unaware that there are successful Stress Incontinence treatment options available.

So, who are these 4.8 million women that are suffering in silence? Recent reports released by ‘Continence Foundation of Australia’ reveal that incontinence is significantly more prevalent in women who have given birth.

“We knew incontinence affected millions of Australians but this new National Survey tells us that the problem is even more widespread than we previously thought,” says Continence Foundation of Australia CEO – Rowan Cockerell.

“Sadly, incontinence is deeply stigmatised and many consider it a taboo topic. Individuals will go to great lengths to keep their condition a secret if they are able. It adds an extra dimension of suffering to the actual health condition and has been found to lead to social isolation, higher psychological impact and delayed help-seeking.” continued Cockerell.

The Emotional Cost of Incontinence

Incontinence isn’t lifethreatening, but it can wear you down. Research shows that women with incontinence have lower self-esteem, a less active sex life, and higher levels of depression than women with healthy bladders. 
Add to this, managing a new baby, a lack of sleep, trying to regain your independence and establish a routine – whilst constantly worrying about spontaneous leakage.

When you’re pregnant you get a lot of advice from many people, but something few people talk about are the impacts that pregnancy and childbirth can have on bladder and bowel control.

Cause of Incontinence Post Child-birth

During pregnancy, the extra weight and changes in hormones weaken your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is then weakened further during labour by pushing, and then again after menopause when your body makes less of the female hormone oestrogen that helps keep the pelvic floor strong.
The major cause of stress urinary incontinence is a lack of proper support of the bladder and urethra. This happens when the tissues in your pelvic area become lax or loose.

Symptoms of Stress Incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence is the leaking of small amounts of urine during physical activity such as lifting, running, jumping or exercising. An increase in pressure on the bladder when coughing, sneezing or laughing can also cause urinary leakage. Besides the leaking of urine, you may notice you don’t feel as tight or compact in your vaginal area.

Stress Incontinence Treatment Options

There are multiple options for treating stress incontinence ranging from non-invasive physiotherapy, through to surgical options.  The kind of treatment you have will depend on:

  • the type of urinary incontinence you have
  • how severe it is
  • your age, health and medical history.

Choosing the treatment option to suit your lifestyle and symptoms is a personal decision. To help women make more informed decisions on treatment, we’ve broken down a few of the main treatment options below:

Kegel Exercises:

Because stress incontinence is a symptom of weak pelvic muscles, you should first try to strengthen them. You can do this with Kegel exercises. Clench the muscles you would use to squeeze a tampon in your vagina. Hold the squeeze for 10 seconds, then relax. Do three or four sets every day. As these muscles get stronger, so should your bladder control. 

Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy

Pelvic floor physiotherapists help women rehabilitate their pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles support the womb (uterus), bladder and bowel (colon), forming a sling from the pubic bone at the front to the tailbone at the back. Rehabilitation could include exercises, biofeedback (electronic monitoring), and manual treatment of the muscles. Advice about daily activities and fitness, good bladder habits, along with functional training of the pelvic floor will attempt to get your muscles working effectively when you need them.

Er:YAG laser: IncontiLase

IncontiLase is an effective, safe, non-surgical and virtually painless procedure using an Er:YAG laser. IncontiLase™ uses special attachments to the laser enabling the application of carefully controlled laser energy into the vaginal canal. Particular attention is given to the front of the vagina, which is where the urethra runs. The aim is to cause a painless heating effect, leading to a shrinkage of collagen fibres. The result is a tightening, thickening and strengthening of tissues that support the urethra. Two to three treatment sessions are required to ensure an effective and long-lasting control of light bladder leakage.

The effect of the stress incontinence treatment is immediate, and the result actually continues to improve for six months after treatment as your body lays down more collagen.

IncontiLase™ is a simple walk-in and walk-out procedure, with no downtime required. There is no preparation required prior to treatment, and there is no need for pain-killers, antibiotics or any other medications following. Book in for a GP consultation to confirm you are a good candidate for this procedure via this link

What surgical options are there and how do they work?

There are several options for surgical intervention, and some come amidst controversy.

Mid-urethral sling procedure installs a U-shaped mesh tape under your urethra to give it support. This usually involves small cuts to your vagina and belly (key-hole surgery). This procedure is sometimes called a tension-free or trans-vaginal tape (TVT) operation. 

Colposuspension uses stitches to lift up the neck of the bladder and attach it to the pubic bone. This can involve small cuts to your belly (key-hole surgery) or a longer cut along your belly. You will be given a general anaesthetic for this procedure.

Urethral bulking agents involves injecting substances into the neck of your bladder that make it tighter and stronger. You will be sedated or given an anaesthetic for this procedure. 

Before considering any form of surgical intervention for Stress Incontinence, ensure you have advice from your GP and a review or consultation with a more conservative treatment approach physician.

About the Author:

Dayalan Masi from Remedy Plus Medical Clinics, is a medical doctor who specialises in using Laser technology to treat a range of conditions that includes Stress Incontinence, Pelvic Prolapse, Facial Rejuvenation and Vascular issues. If you suffer from any of these medical conditions, book in for a consultation to find out if Laser treatment is right for you.