Incontinence – the term for unintentional passing of urine – affects between three and six million people in the UK, yet there’s still a huge stigma surrounding the issue.
It affects both men and women, but tends to be more common in women overall.
Recent research by Always found that 42% of female sufferers felt less attractive or feminine because of incontinence issues. Many agreed that it impacted their sex lives, with 44% being unable to remember the last time they had sex.
Now, thanks to a simple pair of pants, more women are feeling empowered to go about their daily lives without having to worry about leaks.
DiaryDoll knickers are not what you’d typically expect of incontinence underwear.
They are comfortable and stylish, with a secret waterproof panel to protect clothing and bedding from leaks – the discreteness here is key as women no longer have to feel like they’re wearing an adult nappy.
The pants, which can be purchased from Boots.com, are machine washable and can be used in conjunction with normal sanitary protection.
DiaryDoll first began as a teenage product for heavy periods, but in recent years it has begun to focus its efforts on helping women with incontinence.
It is the brainchild of TV presenter Carol Smillie and tennis star Annabel Croft.
Smillie tells The Huffington Post UK: “For a huge number of women, incontinence starts post childbirth. We do our pelvic floor exercises at the time, but in the intervening years, we’re too busy, too tired and real life takes over.
“Very few women seek help for a number of reasons, but mostly embarrassment and judgement.
“They associate it with ageing and imagine it’s only an elderly issue, and for most, it only happens when exercising, coughing, sneezing or laughing too hard.”
There are several types of urinary incontinence, but the most common ones are stress incontinence, where urine leaks out when the bladder is under pressure (for example, when you cough or laugh), and urge incontinence, where urine leaks as you feel a sudden urge to pass urine.
Carina Ladas, 73, developed stress incontinence problems in her late 40s.
After numerous failed surgery attempts, she got to the point where she would get out of bed in the morning and her bladder would begin to empty immediately.
As a result, she had to sleep with kitchen roll next to her.
Her incontinence issues severely affected her relationship with her husband. She became withdrawn and their sex life dwindled.
Now, thanks to DiaryDoll underwear, Ladas no longer has to worry about leakages while going about her daily business.
“I have worried about going out for years and had to map out every toilet,” she explains. “But now I feel so much more secure and don’t need to do that.”
Ladas said since she started wearing them, she hasn’t had to worry about where the nearest toilet was.
“It has given me my confidence back after all these years,” she reveals. “Even my husband thinks their cute and sexy.”
Crossing Your Legs While Coughing and Sneezing? How Yoga Can Help
Take This Test To Find Out If Your Bladder Is Healthy
A recent survey by urology care company Coloplast found that one quarter of people believe incontinence only affects the elderly.
Of more than 2,000 people surveyed, almost half said they would feel uncomfortable talking to loved ones about incontinence issues.
It’s pretty heartbreaking when a person is forced to suffer in silence because of stigma surrounding a health issue. And it’s this taboo that DiaryDoll hopes to change, starting with media coverage.
“The media could do with dropping headlines like ‘..confesses to wetting herself’ for a start,” she says. “It conjures up humiliation and shame when in fact, for many, it’s totally fixable with the correct exercises.
“This should not be about naming and shaming, but about helping women (and sorry to break it to you boys, but it’s coming to you too).”
To coincide with World Continence Week, DiaryDoll has joined forces with The Association for Continence Advice (ACA) and the Bladder and Bowel Foundation (B&BF) to smash the taboo surrounding incontinence and let women know they’re not alone.
Here, they have issued a series of tips to help women take control and tackle their incontinence issues once and for all.
Do them three times, every day, for three months.
You can exercise your pelvic floor muscles by squeezing them as hard as you can (as if you are trying to stop wind or urine). Hold the squeeze and count slowly to three. Then relax and count slowly to three. Repeat ten times to do a set. Do three sets each day.
During the exercises, Smillie says do not hold your breath and try not to squeeze your buttocks or stomach muscles.
“As you get better you can count up to five and then relax for a count of five,” says Smilie. “You can increase your squeeze hold up to 10 seconds over time.”
She explains that it’s imperative that you relax your muscles for the same amount of time as you squeeze them.
“You can do the exercises when standing, sitting or lying down,” she adds.
2. Learn ‘the knack’
Contract your pelvic floor before you cough, sneeze, stand up or do anything that puts pressure on your pelvic floor.
3. Get help
There are specialist continence services available to help you – don’t go straight for pads because most people don’t need them.
4. Lose weight
Even half a stone can mean the difference between being dry and leaking.
5. Avoid constipation
It puts pressure on the pelvic floor. A healthy bowel is important for bladder health.