Female incontinence taboo tackled with 'peeing' billboard advert

A 20ft billboard is encouraging women to speak more openly and honestly about incontinence.(David Parry/PA Wire)
A 20ft billboard is encouraging women to speak more openly and honestly about incontinence. (PA)

A new 'peeing' billboard campaign is hoping to shine a light on the problem of urinary incontinence.

The promotional poster, located near Liverpool Street in London, depicts a woman squatting and lifting weights while ‘peeing’ actual liquid.

The advert, created by Women's health brand, Elvie aims to tackle the taboo surrounding bladder leakage with research from the brand revealing 84% of women in the UK suffer from mild or minor incontinence.

Worryingly, however, only 7% seek medical help – despite the issue being easily improved with pelvic floor training.

When you sneeze, when you cough, when you try out a trampoline... if you've ever experienced the odd down-there accident, it's nothing to be embarrassed about.

In fact, it’s probably time we talked about it, particularly as urinary incontinence is having such an effect on so many of us.

Figures released from Elvie reveal on average it takes women seven and a half years to address the condition, proving there is still very much a taboo surrounding the subject, which the billboard hopes to address.

Designed to help get people talking, the campaign comes just two weeks after TikTok banned a video published on Elvie’s profile, showing a woman leaking urine while weightlifting, as the platform deemed it ‘graphic’ content.

The billboard, created by Elvie, features Megan Burns, who suffers from incontinence. (David Parry/PA Wire)
The billboard, created by Elvie, features Megan Burns, who suffers from incontinence. (PA)

The billboard forms part of the #LeaksHappen campaign, which aims to tackle the stigma surrounding incontinence and encourage women to seek help.

It was inspired by the experiences of women whose daily lives are interrupted by incontinence, including Megan Burns, 28, who is featured in the billboard.

The mum-of-two from Cornwall can be seen displaying a urinary leak while working out in the gym.

Burns first started experiencing urinary leaks when she went on her first run, postpartum.

Watch: More than half opt out of buying personal hygiene products to avoid judgement

Speaking about her appearance on the billboard she says: “I was so nervous about being featured on a 10 foot high billboard with wet leggings. But we have to break the stigma around incontinence because it can hold women back from doing the things they love.

“I was determined to get back into running after having a baby. I spoke to a physio about the leaks I was experiencing, and they told me to use a tampon to help strengthen my pelvic floor.

“This was dangerous advice as you shouldn’t insert a tampon when you’re dry, and it was very uncomfortable.

"There’s so little education around incontinence and how to solve it. This needs to change.”

Incontinence can particularly affect women who take part in high impact sports such as trampolining, gymnastics and running, which have reported rates of incontinence up to 80%.

And it can have a very real impact on women's lives, with almost a quarter (23%) of women who suffer from incontinence said they feel disgusted with themselves, while 10% feel alienated because they are made to feel alone.

Women aren't seeking help for incontinence (Getty Images)
Women aren't seeking help for incontinence. (Getty Images)

Despite so many women experiencing incontinence, almost half (46%) of women do nothing to look after their pelvic floor health.

Tania Boler, CEO and founder of Elvie, said: “Incontinence is often stigmatised but it's something that affects women of all ages and stages; from many different walks of life, and the lack of education — even within the medical world — prevents women from understanding how to access the solutions they need.

"Incontinence is common, but it is in no way a reflection of how inherently brilliant women's bodies are and everything they're capable of. Women need the right tools to solve the problem, so that incontinence doesn't have to be endured.”

If you are suffering from any symptoms of pelvic floor weakness and unsure what the right solution is for you, it is recommended to seek medical advice.

What is urinary incontinence?

The NHS explains that urinary incontinence or bladder leakage is the unintentional passing of urine. It's a common problem thought to affect millions of people.

There are several types of urinary incontinence, including:

  • Stress incontinence – when urine leaks out at times when your bladder is under pressure; for example, when you cough or laugh

  • Urge incontinence – when urine leaks as you feel a sudden, intense urge to pass urine, or soon afterwards

  • Overflow incontinence (chronic urinary retention) – when you're unable to fully empty your bladder, which causes frequent leaking

  • Total incontinence – when your bladder can't store any urine at all, which causes you to pass urine constantly or have frequent leaking

It's also possible to have a mixture of both stress and urge urinary incontinence.

What causes it?

According to the NHS, stress incontinence is usually the result of the weakening of or damage to the muscles used to prevent urination, such as the pelvic floor muscles and the urethral sphincter.

Certain things can increase the chances of bladder leakage developing, including pregnancy and vaginal birth, obesity, a family history of incontinence, increasing age – although incontinence is not an inevitable part of ageing.

How is bladder leakage treated?

The NHS recommends some measures for attempting to control the symptoms of bladder leakage including:

  • Lifestyle changes – such as losing weight and cutting down on caffeine and alcohol

  • Pelvic floor exercises – exercising your pelvic floor muscles by squeezing them, taught by a specialist

  • Bladder training – where you learn ways to wait longer between needing to urinate and passing urine, guided by a specialist

“You may also benefit from the use of incontinence products such as absorbent pads and handheld urinals,” the NHS site continues.

If things still don’t improve your doctor may recommend medication and in extreme cases, surgery.

Though it isn’t always possible to prevent bladder leakage, the NHS does have some suggestions for reducing the chance of it developing including controlling your weight, avoiding or cutting down on alcohol and keeping fit, paying particular attention to strengthening your pelvic floor muscles.

Watch: Research reveals how many women still do not know enough about their own bodies