By Toni Brannagan
There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re not in charge of your own body, and there’s nothing lonelier than feeling like you’re the only person going through something. Honestly though, sure, every body is unique, but you’re never *really* alone in your experiences.
Sure, you can troll through comment threads on random forums of people describing your symptoms to make yourself feel better (well, it makes me feel better, okay??), but there’s something special about being able to talk about stuff, you know, IRL.
Thing is, there are so many topics related to women’s health that have been unnecessarily deemed taboo. It can be hard to find a community of people to commiserate with about periods and pain during sex and vaginal discharge, even though there is an entire subculture dedicated to grown men discussing My Little Pony. Life ain’t fair, y’all.
Today, we’re gonna talk about bladder leaks and urinary incontinence, something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, whether or not it affects them. The lack of open conversation surrounding leaks not only isolates people with bladder control issues, but allows many misconceptions live on for far too long.
For one, did you know that one in three women experience bladder leaks? And it’s not just women in the demographic you would assume—an estimated 10% of women in the United States under the age of 65 have urinary incontinence. That’s millions of people.
We’re gonna specifically address bladder leaks that people with vaginas have, because they represent over 80% of incontinent pee in the United States. In case you missed it, because of fluctuating hormones during both puberty and menopause, as well as pregnancy, vaginas tend to go through a whooole lot.
Adore Your Pelvic Floor
Just like every other part of *you*, your pelvic floor deserves a li'l love. If you feel like your body is outta control because of bladder leaks, give your pelvic floor some TLC, or at least educate yourself about WTF it actually does (we’re learning together here, tbh). Education + attention might be what you need to better coexist with your fabulously unruly body.
Sooo what is your pelvic floor and why should you care about it, anyway?
1. Let’s get reeaaal basic: Your pelvic floor is a set of muscles that extends from your pubic bone back to your tailbone, and sits in a bowl-like shape at the bottom of your pelvis.
2. Its job is to eliminate waste, hold up the rest of yo’ organs, and help you feel ~pleasure~ during sexy timez. It’s da real MVP.
3. Pelvic floor health isn’t just a concern for people who have given birth or have reached a certain age. Medical professionals treat people as young as 18 for a variety of different reasons—so don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor if you experience leaks!
4. Um, news to me—apparently kegels aren’t a magical cure-all exercise? Does this mean there’s *other* info I've read in Cosmopolitan that isn’t 100% medically accurate??
5. No really, some of these myths are blowing my mind. Did you know that you’re not actually supposed to go pee “just in case?” Long story short, going before you feel like you need to can eventually trick your brain into thinking your bladder is full before it actually is. We’ll save you the trouble—your mom will never admit she was wrong about this.
Pee the Change
This week is the 10th anniversary of World Continence Week, a whole week devoted to encouraging conversation about peoples’ bladder and bowel troubles, led by taboo-bustin’ orgs like The Simon Foundation, the World Federation of Incontinence Patients (WFIP), and our pee-proof sister brand, Icon.
It’s also Wednesday, so my #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday, not World C—I can trust you guys to figure this one out, right?) is our sistahs, Team Icon. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to solve a problem when you don’t even know you have the option. (BTW, their pee-proof undies are 33.3% off in honor of World Continence Week, so that more women than ever can feel comfortable in their own bodies.)
They’re changing the conversation around women’s sometimes leaky bodies—and you can join in!
Check out the handy WCW toolkit they created just for the occasion, or connect with their badass community over on The Iconic. Their resources are super-helpful, but all you need to start the conversation about the annoying/awkward/funny/embarrassing reality of bladder leaks is an open mind. Talking about this stuff in your own social circle is important because you never know who is going through the same thing and might just be too nervous to discuss it.
The most important thing you can do is just straight-up refuse to be ashamed of your body, and encourage everyone else to do the same.
Have you ever experienced bladder leaks, or felt like your body was rebelling against you in a different way? Smash the stigma and share those stories with us in the comments below.