Page last updated at 10:28 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Cause celeb: Ulrika breaks incontinence taboo

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Ulrika speaks out about sensitive bladder problems

High profile names can help raise awareness of a disease or condition, and bring it under the spotlight.

This new video series talks to those in the public eye about their personal reasons for speaking out.

In the first of the series, Ulrika Jonsson talks candidly about light adult incontinence (LAI) which she suffered from after the birth of her fourth child.

By sharing her experiences she hopes to help reduce the stigma surrounding this normally guarded subject.

New research by the Wellbeing of Women charity shows that one third of British women over the age of 30 have experience of this condition. However, women often suffer in silence falsely assuming they are alone and too embarrassed to seek help.

The condition is linked not only to childbirth, but also to the menopause, which results in a loss of hormones that play an essential role in keeping the muscles strong and elastic.

Exercises

Pelvic floor exercises can be used to improve bladder control.

The pelvic floor muscles relax at the same time as the bladder contracts in order to let urine out, but if they lose strength they may begin to relax at other times, causing leakage.

The exercises involve clenching the muscles you would use to prevent yourself urinating.

Another treatment is a weighted cone which is held in the vagina to teach the pelvic floor muscles to contract.

Alternatively, a technique as simple as emptying the bladder at fixed intervals can produce relatively quick results.

Other treatments can include drugs, electrical stimulation of the pelvic floor, and, as a last resort, surgery.


Your emails:

I am a midwife and would strongly urge any women who have stress incontinence to seek help from their GP. It is NOT a normal by-product of childbirth and there are things that you can do to resolve it, and much of what is being promoted at the moment is blatant marketing for products which act like sanitary towels for urine, making it seem like a normal thing to happen, which it is not.

Also, I was told that Ms Jonsson et al this morning were advising women to use their pelvic floor muscles to stop the flow of urine while passing urine. I would again stress this is not advisable, and can lead to further problems such as urinary retention and infection. Advice such as this should not be given out by untrained lay people whose words carry weight with the general public.
Claire, London, UK

I had a TVT repair done last year after a combination of two large children and the effects of menopause. It is the best thing I have ever done and would recommend it. It is an easy and quick solution to a problem that can be embarrassing, unpredictable and can control you activities and health. I can now run, jump and not a drop escapes me..
Hellyn Goodwin, Plymouth, UK

Well done Ulrika - a big pat on the back for speaking on this topic - such an untrendy topic but Ulrika will will have done such a lot of good.
Helen, Croydon, UK

After the birth of my daughter I was horrified to find that coughing or sneezing caused me to have "accidents," and that when I needed to go to the restroom I had best go quickly if I wanted to stay dry. Luckily I had a co-worker who had previously mentioned how prevalent this problem is, so I never felt completely alone. I still feel humiliated to some extent, however.

I treat it with techniques like you describe above, but it requires continual vigilance, lest the problem recur. I have never told my doctor about it; it almost seems pointless as well as embarrassing. She'd just tell me to do what I'm already doing.
Jennifer, Albuquerque, NM USA

I suffer from the same thing, and I'm always reading that it's relatively common in women of a certain age...but I'm only 21 and have been this way at least 5 years. I'd like to know what kind of statistic I'm part of!
Catherine

Thank God for Ulrika. There are millions of women suffering. Luckily I discovered the pelvic toner and within a few weeks my problems were solved. Brenda
Brenda Foster, Swansea, UK

I suffered from LAI after the stressful forceps delivery of my son 2 years ago. I told my doctor at the six-week check and was referred to a physiotherapist for help. It's important to speak out because support is available. There's no point being embarrassed as these health professionals have seen/heard it all before.
Fran, Scottish Borders, UK

I didn't know this was a taboo, it was a common topic at the mums and babies groups I attended 14 years ago. We all used to joke about how we couldn't do star jumps any more because we'd leak. But most women don't know there's anything that can be done apart from a daily commitment to the tedious and sometimes ineffective pelvic floor exercises. I'm currently upping my exercises, but if it doesn't work I now know I can have a simple operation that will stop my bladder coming down so low when I cough or sneeze, which is apparently the cause of the problem in my case.
Kate Cooper, Leeds, UK

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SEE ALSO
Tackling 'stigma' of incontinence
19 Sep 08 |  South East Wales
Incontinence care plan launched
24 Oct 06 |  Health
Inside Medicine: The urologist
20 Jan 08 |  Health

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