Meg Mathews has found a solution to one of the most common menopause side effects

Meg Mathews
Photo credit: Meg Mathews

From Red Online

Finding out she was in the menopause, Meg Mathews, 53, realised women like her needed support, craved information – and above all, needed to share their experiences and remove the stigma so she became a vocal campaigner for menopausal women everywhere. Here Meg shares a new find that helps with one of the most common menopause side effects: bladder weakness.

Before I started going through the menopause at around the age of forty-nine, I thought that the only symptoms that women experienced were hot flushes and of course your periods eventually stopping. I now know that’s simply not the case as over 34 symptoms have been identified and I expect there are probably even more we could add to this list!

One of the most distressing really has to be leaking wee at inappropriate moments. I have had so many conversations with my girlfriends and my followers on MegsMenopause, and so many of them are suffering from this problem. They all, of course, feel embarrassed and when coping with their other menopause symptoms on top of this issue it can be really upsetting and frustrating.

There are many stories of ladies like you and me, former colourful party animals, now virtual recluses as they don’t want the embarrassment of potentially peeing unexpectedly and leaking. Not to mention that awful desperate feeling of having to go for a wee and the instant relief when you can make it to the toilet.

In the gym I always wear black now, rather than my favourite pink and white gym combos, as I don’t want anyone to see an accidental leak when I’m on the rebounder or treadmill. This really is a common problem and many of my girlfriends agree that white and pale coloured bottoms are a virtual no-no – particularly if they are planning on a run or high impact fitness class.

I’ve also really started noticing that friends go to the toilet more when we’re out for a coffee or lunch, some up to three or four times in an hour. It seems just as we get into our conversation they need to pop out, but I absolutely understand how sometimes the urge can overtake you – you can’t think of anything else but getting to the nearest toilet!

It can be really embarrassing if you do leak. The emotional impact can be huge. You can feel that you have lost a little bit of the person that you were; a loss of dignity and feelings of embarrassment that make many women that I speak to feel like becoming a recluse. In fact, some do and this is really sad because this can also have an impact on our mental wellbeing.

On a practical level, it’s just a hassle to deal with. Many women that I know and speak with lament the need to take multiple outfits, pads if you use them and enquire about where the toilets are as soon as you arrive anywhere. I also have friends who have said that it made them feel less feminine and sexy, particularly if they have to wear bulky incontinence pads to mask the problem.

So, why do women – up to two out of three of those over forty according to a recent survey – leak more as the menopause approaches? I chatted to specialist menopause doctor, Dr Shahzadi Harper of TheHarperClinic.com, who explained that it’s all due to fluctuating levels of oestrogen in your body.

She said: 'I would say that seven out of ten women that I see in my clinic are affected in some way by bladder leakage. Many women are aware of stress bladder leakage, which happens when we cough, sneeze of laugh – and it’s the reason why many women never get on a trampoline again after having children – but they’re not so familiar with urgency incontinence.

'This generates the feeling of being desperate to go to the loo, and often comes out of nowhere. Perhaps you have just arrived at a friend’s house or are sitting in an important work meeting or have woken up in the middle of the night and you just can’t stop thinking you need to go – RIGHT NOW! It really disrupts your sleep!'

Dr Harper explained 'it's all down to oestrogen, which is responsible for maintaining the elasticity of muscles, including those all-important pelvic floor muscles which stretch from your coccyx to the pubic bone.

'When levels drop during the menopause, so does elasticity – which in turn reduces support for the bladder and causes the sensitive nerves at the base to send more frequent signals to our brain that we need to go to the toilet.'

So, what’s the answer? I’ve been investigating and essentially it is all down to developing a regular pelvic floor exercise regime. That means remembering to do those all-important exercises right from after you’ve had children, and maybe even before, as pelvic floor muscles can weaken in later life and around the menopause regardless of whether you’ve had kids or not – and even if you’ve had a C-section (another myth busted)! It’s never too early to start making it a habit.

The NHS describes what pelvic floor exercises are. I know the importance of doing my exercises, and remember being told after I had my daughter Anaïs to do my pelvic floor exercises every time I stopped at a red traffic light! It’s really important to build it into your routine – whatever works for you – in your car, with your morning coffee or watching your favourite box set last thing at night.

When my pelvic floor started not being quite the same, I wanted something to help me fix it. I met an innovative company called Pelviva – who are passionate about helping women with bladder leakage to take back control.

Pelviva is a small discrete device and is hugely helpful. You just pop it in your vagina for thirty minutes at a time a few days a week and it actually does your pelvic floor exercises for you whilst you get on with your life.

Interestingly, the NHS recommends electrical stimulation if you can’t do pelvic floor exercises and helpfully Pelviva delivers that electro-stimulation directly to the pelvic floor muscles. It’s great at helping you locate your pelvic floors, so ideal for women who need a helping hand. After all it's said that as many as fifty percent of women are not doing their exercises correctly in the first place, even when they understand that they should be doing them.

It took to me couple of months of using the device and then I saw an improvement in my newly strengthened pelvic floor muscles!

It might seem a bit expensive, but if you think that you can get your quality of life back –without on relying on alternative solutions which I would have to constantly buy – on balance it was actually cost effective in the long run (excuse the pun).

For me, it meant I could also wear my favourite gym gear again, in any colour, without any fear or embarrassment, and this felt really great! No more awkward situations when you go out. The added plus for those of us worried about the environment is that leaking less means less pads, as apparently there are five plastic bags worth of plastic in every pad.

Whether you’ve experienced bladder leaks or not, I think it’s important that we’re all aware of this problem, and not afraid to talk about the fact that it can happen during menopause.

The more we feel empowered to speak to our friends about it our GP about our experiences (and share solutions), the more the big 'M' won’t feel so scary and unsurmountable. Every single woman will go through the menopause, so we’re ALL in this together.

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

SIGN UP


You Might Also Like