While many think of bladder leaks as something that is typically endured by older women and new mothers, the reality is that nearly two thirds (64%) of 18-24 year olds experience the issue.
A new study, conducted by Always Discreet, has revealed that bladder weakness among younger women is a lot more common than people might first think. According to the research, some 13% of women are unable to control themselves when lifting something heavy at the gym. And another 35% of those who suffer from bladder weakness have had an embarrassing incident in public.
And yet, there seems to be such a taboo around it, as further findings prove.
Only a third of women experiencing leaks took over a year just to admit to themselves that they had an issue, let alone discuss it with others. Half said they have still not had the courage to talk to their most trusted friends or family, with 60% saying they are too embarrassed and ashamed. Seven in 10 women experiencing bladder leaks haven’t even discussed it with a GP, with many explaining that they didn’t want to waste their doctor’s time.
“Bladder leaks are common in women of all ages, not just in older generations and those women who have had natural child births,” said Dr Anita Mitra, Gynaecologist and author of The Gynae Geek; Your No-Nonsense Guide to Down There Healthcare. “Unfortunately, it’s still a bit of a taboo and so women don’t tend to fully understand it, with many avoiding talking about it. The more we speak openly, the better, so women don’t feel alone and silenced by something that can be managed.”
So, what exactly is urinary incontinence?
According to the NHS website, urinary incontinence is the unintentional passing of urine, which can be split into four different types: stress incontinence, urge Incontinence, overflow incontinence and total incontinence.
It is usually the result of the weakening of or damage to the muscles used to prevent urination, such as the pelvic floor muscles and the urethral sphincter. This can happen for all sorts of reasons.
Although it’s not always possible to prevent bladder weakness, controlling your weight, avoiding alcohol and keeping fit can all help. Bladder training and pelvic floor exercises are usually advised by GPs as a treatment, too.
Women have shared their experiences as part of Always Discreet’s #WeeNeedToTalk campaign to help break the shame and embarrassment that usually surrounds bladder leakages.
“I’m a comedian and laugh a LOT,” said comedian Sarah Szloboda. “Great problem to have, but that means I pay for it with a leak here and there. No shame! If anything it’s become my benchmark to how good of a time I’m having. Did I pee a little bit? Great, just means I’m living my best life. Or that’s what I tell myself.”
“So, my experience of weeing a bit is a result of both coughing hard and laughing uncontrollably,” added chef and carer Kehinde Olarinmoye. “For years I did pilates, and only stopped when I was about seven months pregnant.
“I experienced a tear during childbirth, so already down there no longer felt the same,” she continues. “Weeing became unpredictable, so I was constantly wearing a pad. If I laughed I peed. If I coughed I peed. Even years down the line now, outside of my menstrual cycle I wear a panty liner to catch any trickle that comes with laughing, because basically, I love to laugh.”
And event and photographer professional Virginia Offiah shared: “I absolutely love Body Combat at the gym but more recently I’ve noticed come the end of the class as I have been jumping around I have wet knickers. A little bit of pee tends to come out each time I land a big jump.
“I’m all up for speaking about it, I know I’m not alone.”
For every like or comment on the #WeeNeedToTalk behind-the-scenes video on YouTube from 4 to 18 July, Always Discreet will donate £1 to Bladder Health UK, the largest support charity dedicated to bladder health. Every £1 will help fund a confidential advice line so that more women can get advice and support.
You can reach Bladder Health UK’s confidential advice line on 0800 4334 600.
For far too long, the representation of women by both mainstream and social media has failed to reflect who we see in the mirror, and its impact on our mental health is worrying. Stylist’s Love Women initiative promises to change that. As well as the launch of our Body Politics series, we’ve partnered with Dove, whose latest project (in conjunction with photo library Getty Images) aims to increase the supply of diverse pictures of women – which we will be using going forward.
Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers:
1.We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
2. We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
3. We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
4. We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals.
5. Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.
Find out more about Stylist’s Love Women initiative here.