In a packed crowd, you’ve got to be strategic in dealing with incontinence.
– By Jeanie Lerche Davis
A lecture hall, the theater, a ballgame: if the setting is crowded, incontinence is a hassle. Many people avoid those events. Others get crafty in devising their exit plans.
“People can be very strategic,” says Roger Dmochowski, MD, a urologist and director of the Vanderbilt Continence Center in Nashville, Tenn. “It’s amazing how good some people are at estimating their bladder problem. They have a fairly good idea of the time frame they’re working with. They try to make it through the challenging period.”
What doctors call “bladder training” is a good idea in taming urge incontinence, says May Wakamatsu, MD, chief of Vincent Urogynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “It means taking a toilet trip every three to four hours on a regular basis. One caution — don’t start emptying your bladder every hour. That just encourages overactive bladder and urgency.”
Your Strategy for Handling Incontinence
Carefully select your fluids. “Many people dehydrate themselves,” Dmochowski tells WebMD. That’s never a good idea. So take a careful look at which fluids cause problems more often. “Some have more problems with caffeinated products or alcohol, so they avoid them or cut back — and that certainly can help.” This includes coffee and carbonated drinks like sodas.
Avoid problem foods. At dinner before the performance — or at the ball field — keep meals on the mild side. Spicy and high-acid foods (like citrus fruits and juices) can make urge incontinence worse. Go easy on them to avoid accidents.
Map the bathrooms. In any new setting, make this your top priority. When you buy event tickets, ask for aisle seats near a bathroom. Before taking your seat, make a visit.
Try a tampon. Whether it’s your period or not, a tampon in the vagina puts pressure on the urethra — which helps prevent leaks from stress incontinence, says Vani Dandolu, MD, MPH, a urogynecologist with Temple University School of Women in Philadelphia.
Wear a pessary. This is a round object that is worn in the vagina, and prevents leakage. It is a nonsurgical approach to treating incontinence related to uterine prolapse and stress incontinence. A doctor can fit you for a pessary.
Wear a good pad. A good-quality incontinence pad can help you get through the event safely. Pads fit comfortably under a normal (not tight) pair of pants or skirt. If that doesn’t seem like enough, move on to incontinence products like disposable protective underwear. They’re a bit bulkier, but will keep you dry through the event.
Dress in classic black. Black hides everything. Stand for cheers or ovations without worrying what people behind you are thinking. Any leaks or overflows won’t show.
Pack a small bag. A few items you might need: an extra incontinence pad, odor neutralizing spray, and a small fragrance spray. You don’t want to overdo with fragrance, but a spritz might be nice. Also, moist towelettes can help you feel fresh.
Take incontinence medications. Medicine can help some people with urge incontinence. Start taking your medication a few days before the event. The longer it is in your bloodstream, the better effect it will have.