OMG it happened! I never thought it would, but it did. And now it’s happening all the time. I cant walk and cough at the same time, I need to strategically catch my legs in a crossed position if I feel the urge to display a symptom of a common cold. I need to ‘prep’ before an exercise class or a run, or I wont make it past the first 5 minutes. And kids, sorry, but Mum’s days of jumping on the trampoline are over! I’ll be loud and proud about it, I am experiencing LBL, or Light Bladder Leakage, and to be honest, after 4 kids and an intense dislike of pelvic floor exercises, I’m surprised it hasn’t hit me sooner!
Light Bladder Leakage (LBL) is the involuntary leakage of small amounts of urine from the bladder. It is amazingly common, 1 in every 3 Australian women over 35 experience LBL, yet it is amongst the least reported medical issues to doctors. Although embarrassing, the most important part about having LBL is knowing why you have it and how to treat it.
What Causes LBL?
For a vast majority of women with LBL, pregnancy and child birth are the main culprits. The pelvic floor muscles are stretched significantly when carrying and having a baby (whether it be a whopper or a teeny one) and even though pregnant women are encouraged to performed Kegels exercises to strengthen and maintain muscle tone in their pelvic floor, even the most vigilant participant can fall prey to the postpartum sag.
Other factors that can trigger LBL include:
- strenuous activity
- thyroid disorder
- running water
- stress – the intensity of you LBL can be affected by stress levels
- smoking and caffeine
- obesity and excess weight
Knowing your triggers and their frequency is important to know, as this can help the doctor assess your treatment options. Some women may leak every time they sneeze or laugh, and some may only after repeated episodes in a small amount of time. Some women will leak at the slightest sound of running water but be able to jump with their legs apart for a good 5 minutes.Every women’s body is different and every case is different.
Some treatment options are easy; if you find you experience LBL after one too many coffee’s in the morning, then this can be rectified. If your LBL is caused by a medical condition, medication can help this. It is helpful to continue pelvic floor muscle exercises (Kegels) and remember that, like any muscle, it can be toned and strengthened with continued exercise.
If you wish to consult your doctor for extreme cases of LBL, it is handy to keep a record of your bladder habits for up to two weeks before your appointment. Make sure you document liquids drunk, frequency of toilet visits and occurence of leakage.
Myths Surrounding LBL
There are several myths surrounding LBL, which contributes to the stigma attached to the condition and women’s hesitation to seek medical advice or talk about it amongst their friends. Some of these myths include:
- LBL only affects old people. LBL actually affects people as young as 25 and more than half the number of people who suffer from LBL are under 40.
- It’s normal to have a leak when you sneeze. Any kind of urine leakage is not normal.
- If I cut back on drinking water, it wont be as bad. You may think that not drinking water will help prevent leakage, but it actually makes the problem worse by concentrating urine which can lead to bladder infections.
- Surgery is the only treatment. Actually, surgery is usually the last resort and there are many treatment options available before surgery is suggested.
- Nobody else has it as bad. With 1 in 3 women experiencing some form of LBL, you can bet there is someone just as bad, or even worse off than you!
Light Bladder Leakage may not be the most glamorous of topics to discuss over morning coffee, but chances are you will find most of your friends are suffering in silence too! LBL does not need to be simply tolerated; a simple visit to your GP can help you regain your bladder control and confidence!
Do you suffer from LBL? What steps are you taking (or have taken) to help?