One of my most fave nights is Friday nights- girls night. I love when I get time with my girlfriends; it’s a given that there is wine involved and with wine comes laughter and great conversations. As women, we know that we are pretty much open books – we share and talk openly on just about every topic..  From our husbands and what they are/aren’t doing around the house, to our jobs and kids, no topic is left untouched – even when it comes to sex stories. As women in our mid-40’s a topic that comes up quite often is our health.  I have some friends who have been diagnosed with certain health issues and I appreciate their openness when sharing about their treatment, frustrations and the onset of new daily challenges.

One particular Friday there were fewer of us than normal, a nice intimate group. I was chatting with one of my girlfriends and the topic came round to sex and intimacy.   She teared up and said that her and her husband were getting along well, however their one issue was in the bedroom. I asked her what she meant and she let me know that she was experiencing some ‘personal issues’ that were keeping her from wanting to be intimate with her husband. This in turn was affecting their marriage as her husband was not being too understanding of it and was missing the sex they used to have.  I was immediately worried, hoping that her personal issues weren’t something too serious.

Trying to be as supportive of a friend as possible, I asked if she was comfortable sharing what the issue was  and I could see her withdraw in her eyes, as she explained to me that she hadn’t told anyone, not even her husband.  She grew embarrassed and explained she was experiencing bladder leakage and was extremely self-conscious about it.  My initial reaction was to grab my girlfriend and give her a big hug –I was relieved. I was worried she had cancer or something.  But then I realized that obviously this was really upsetting to my friend and I wanted to help her and be as supportive as possible to her.  We decided to  meet the next day for a coffee, just her and I,  and did some research on bladder leakage together. Here’s what we found:

Bladder leakage is a common condition that affects approximately 3.5 million Canadians-nearly 10% of the population (this was the first thing we read and immediately I could see my friend relax and feel a bit better – this was common!).  Bladder leakage is also known as urinary incontinence- it’s the involuntary loss of bladder control.

Although it’s so common, it’s also very common that many people don’t talk to anyone about their symptoms as they feel too embarrassed. Both males AND females can experience bladder leakage and it can happen at any age – it’s not just for older people as many often believe.  What we read in that coffee shop was that it does not need to consume your life – that the first step is opening up about it and then seek help/advice.  So I encouraged my girlfriend, told her that she had already overcome one of the biggest obstacles by opening up to me and  that she was on the right track!

We wanted to know what could be causing this as she said it hadn’t been something she always had experienced. We read that it could occur due to natural changes in our bodies such as weakness of the pelvic floor muscles in women ( sometimes caused after childbirth or during menopause). She later learned that menopause was the cause of her leaks and was able to seek treatment right for her – more on that in a bit.

While certain medications prescribed for conditions unrelated to the urinary system can also cause this, causes  that surprised us were found in our diet; certain foods and drinks can irritate the bladder and exacerbate leakage symptoms- with trigger food/drinks ranging from : caffeine to alcohol, acidic foods, chocolate, artificial sweeteners , carbonated drinks and hot spices.  We had a laugh about the causes and she hoped it wasn’t alcohol or wine that was causing hers – she wasn’t ready to give those up!

She decided to make an appointment with her family doctor but in the meantime wanted to find something that she could do to help her.  We read that 79% of women with leakage either don’t use a product to help or use menstrual products. My girlfriend admitted that she was doing that – she was using a pantyliner, but we learned that menstrual products don’t have protection from urine leakage as they don’t absorb as fastm as much and lock in odour the way that  proper bladder leakage protection products do.  We continued to read that not using the proper products can lead to a lack of intimacy in a relationship due to a loss of confidence. Bingo- my girlfriend admitted she was worried about leaking and smelling and therefore was avoiding intimacy with her husband.   So although she had to see her doctor and find out the cause, we decided we would get her the proper products she needed to cope so in the interim, she wouldn’t have to worry about being wet and having  odour issues.

We left the coffee shop and went to the pharmacy where the pharmacist was very helpful. We soon learned that the Depends now had  Depend Silhouette Active-Fit Briefs for women, for more frequent and heavier leakage, but a product that looked and felt like real underwear and could be worn with yoga pants even.  They even came in different colours. Nothing like the ‘big diaper’ at all that Depend usually gets stereotyped as. My girlfriend had lighter leakage so she was able to get Poise Thin Shape Pads for women. These offer security and comfort and are made with super-absorbent material leaving you feeling 3x drier than similar sized period pads. (The Depend products are also available in Men’s).

Fast forward 2 months- I had a conversation with my girlfriend and asked how she and her husband were. She was much happier and was smiling saying that she had tried both the Depend and Poise products and was using them interchangeably now depending on the occasion and they were really helping. She  said she was now more confident and had even opened up to her husband about what was going on and explained that was way she had shied away previously.   She also advised she had been to see her family doctor and had been referred to a pelvic physiotherapist who was working with her and had given her exercises (like Kegel’s) to help her strengthen her pelvic floor. There was nothing wrong with her and she had already started to notice improvements.

It was so great to see her happy again – she thanked me for my help and I told her I was pleased to help her – it was good she had opened up otherwise she would have kept this to herself and wouldn’t have found  out the treatment and products that were available to her.

November is #IncontinenceAwareness Month and @Depend wants you to live your best life despite leaks.