November is Bladder Health Awareness Month, and for 37 years the National Association for Continence has been working to increase awareness and promote treatments for those suffering from incontinence issues. Despite our best efforts, though, the stigma around bladder conditions still exists.
That’s not entirely surprising – after all, most of us are taught that anything related to bathroom activities is deeply personal and, for many, deeply shameful. But when you consider just how widespread these conditions are, it quickly becomes clear that virtually everyone in America is touched by incontinence, whether they suffer from it themselves or have a loved one who does.
Consider the numbers. By some measurements, when you add together all those who suffer from urinary incontinence, pelvic floor issues, and bowel health problems, as many as one in four of us have some form of the condition.
Unfortunately, misunderstanding remains rampant. Despite popular belief, for example, incontinence isn’t something that only happens as you get older, and men are nearly as likely as women to be afflicted.
The real fact is that incontinence can happen to anyone at any time. It can start slowly and increase in intensity for years until you don’t remember a time when you didn’t have leaks. Or it can come on suddenly, after surgery or childbirth or spinal cord injury, disrupting life as you once knew it. Incontinence can even crop up for no discernable reason at all, happening only during the night, ruining your sleep, and exhausting you from constant bed changes and loads of laundry.
No matter how or when it happens to you, incontinence can make you feel ashamed and embarrassed. It may stop you from doing the things you enjoy and keep you from seeing the people you love. Isolation and depression are common side effects, especially for those who feel like they have to live their lives chained to the bathroom.
That’s why the NAFC is here: To help you better manage your condition, promote proven care strategies, and provide resources to help you cope with the physical and emotional impacts you’re likely experiencing.
We do that by offering detailed insights on a range of conditions and discussing evidence-based treatment options to help you become more knowledgeable about what you may have and what you can do about it. Our online doctor finder is a great way to locate a qualified healthcare professional near you. The tools we offer can help you start a meaningful conversation with your care provider – especially if you’re a little hesitant to do so. And because community is so important, our anonymous message boards serve as a safe, welcoming place for you to connect with others who are dealing with the same challenges you are. Better still, all of it is free!
Perhaps most importantly, we serve as a voice to raise awareness about incontinence and other bladder health challenges. This month – and all year long – we publish content on our blog and website, through social media campaigns and in our emails, not only to help you learn more about your own issues but to help others recognize that incontinence is a very real, very common medical condition that shouldn’t be stigmatized. There’s a reason we say that “There’s no shame in being human”: None of us should ever have to feel ashamed of bladder leaks, and none of us should have to let it limit our lives.
We encourage you this month to think about your own life without leaks. What would that look like to you? Is it being able to go out to dinner without worrying about where the bathroom is? Not ducking out of work meetings when a sudden urge strikes? Being able to play with your grandkids without the fear of accidents? Or enjoying some of the outdoor activities that you had to stop once the leaking started? It’s different for everyone, but the one thing in common is that a life without leaks is a life on your own terms, without the dark cloud of incontinence following you around and making your existence feel small.
If you’re suffering from incontinence or any other bladder health disorder, now is the time to take action. Signing up to receive our free eBook and weekly newsletters is a great place to start – it’s an easy way to become better educated about your condition and stay informed about all of the resources NAFC has to offer – especially because we’re constantly adding new ones.
Next, download some of the many tools we have to help you along your journey to dryness. We have doctor discussion guides, brochures about your condition, a Pelvic Floor Health Center, and even a 6-week pelvic floor program to help you strengthen your muscles and eliminate bladder leaks. Finally, talk to your doctor or find a specialist who can help you take steps toward dryer days. We know this may take some courage, but it’s easier than you think, and you’ll find that it’s really worth it.
Now that November is upon us, please join us as we work to raise awareness about incontinence through our new “Life Without Leaks” campaign. The best way to do that is to share our blogs and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Through it all, we hope you’ll be inspired to find your own life without leaks. And remember: We’re here to help.
Steven G Gregg, Ph.D
Executive Director, NAFC