Coping with loss of bladder control
Worrying about what will happen if you leak is a very common part of urinary incontinence, which affects around 5 million people in Australia.
Even if you don’t have regular incontinence, there are all sorts of other reasons why you could experience loss of bladder control when out and about (like recently having given birth, having a urinary tract infection or recovering from an illness).
But there’s no need to panic. We’ve pulled together some top tips for when leaks happen – build yourself an action plan, and style it out to perfection.
First response: Try not to panic
Even if a leak has happened, it is important to stay as calm as possible. Panicking can have even the most iron-bladdered among us running for the bathroom – it could mean you end up leaking more.
- Move out of sight, walking calmly – so you can take a moment for yourself without being worried about anyone seeing you
- Breathe deeply to help yourself remain calm
- Try and find somewhere you can clean up. Use tissues, paper towels and toilet roll to soak up urine. Wetting your clothes with water can help to draw out the urine, but do make sure to dry off as much as possible – damp clothing can irritate your skin
- If you have your phone with you, message someone to come and help you
- Use perfume or aftershave to help cover up any remaining odour and help you get back to feeling more like yourself
- Consider tying a jumper around your waist (ask to borrow one if you are with friends)
Passing off loss of bladder control at a big event
Experiencing a leak at a large family/business event or a big party may sound daunting, but there are ways to cope with the situation.
- Go to the nearest bathroom, or a quiet room. You may want to let someone know you are slipping away, so they can subtly reassure others if they ask why you're missing from the event or provide help if you need it.
- As above, use whatever is to hand at the event like paper towels and toilet roll to dry yourself as much as you can
- Consider whether you want to return to the event, and let someone know your decision
- If you are staying in a hotel nearby, head back for a change of clothes; pick something up from a shop if you have any nearby, or ask someone to help you with this
- If you aren’t staying in the area but are far from home, see if anyone has a spare piece of clothing you can borrow – to change into, or to tie around your waist
Plan ahead to handle leaks
Planning ahead can help you to reassure yourself that you’re ready to handle a leak, should it happen.
- Know where your toilets are – get familiar with their locations in places you often go to, and research anywhere new that you visit. This map of public toilets is just the ticket!
- Have a look at what TENA products would be best for you, so you’ve got the right ones with you just in case
- Always be prepared – this motto is your best friend when preparing for a sudden loss of bladder control while you’re out. Take supplies for coping with leaks, many of which will fit in a discreet bag: spare underwear, wet wipes, perfume or aftershave, and extra TENA items (like our Lights for minor leaks)
You may want to think about wearing incontinence pads or pants, if you don’t do so already – then you can carry on with your life, safe in the knowledge that a leak will be invisible.
Understanding why loss of bladder control happens
A big part of staying calm is understanding why you might have a weak pelvic floor or a sudden urge to urinate. This understanding can also help you plan ahead, minimising the chances of those little leaks.
- Find out about urinary incontinence, and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns
- Think about how often and how heavy your leaks are, so that you can manage them in the right way
- See if there’s a pattern to your leaks – do certain drinks trigger them, are they more likely to happen at certain times of the day, during certain activities or shortly after having a drink? Knowing your triggers can help to make a leak less likely.
- Getting a proper diagnosis, which might identify a certain type of incontinence (like urge incontinence), can help to find the right treatment.
Sometimes honesty is your best policy
With close friends and family that you feel comfortable talking to, explain that you need to make sure a bathroom is always within easy reach. Incontinence is more common than many people realise – you might discover that other people in your life are experiencing it too.
Talking about incontinence and sharing your experiences with others may help with deciding where to go, what activities to do, or in making sure a compromise is possible (so you can stay near a bathroom if you need to).
If you can’t see a public toilet nearby, ask a shop or restaurant if you can use theirs. Even if an establishment says their toilets are for customers only, asking politely and explaining that it’s an exceptional situation should work with sympathetic staff.
The most important thing is to try and stay calm, and focus on your next step rather than dwelling on the fact that you’ve experienced a leak. It happens to the best of us, but with a ready plan you’ll be back to your normal day in no time.
Loss of bladder control doesn't have to ruin your day. It may help to understand more about urinary incontinence in adults.