Staying in control of a sensitive bladder

Staying in control of a sensitive bladder

Our health editor Patsy Westcott has some great tips to help you stop the flow if you have bladder control issues.

Our health editor Patsy Westcott has some great tips to help you stop the flow if you have bladder control issues.

‘I’m bursting to go,’ becomes an ever-more frequent cry as we reach a certain age.

If it’s one you’re prone to it’s nothing to be ashamed of… and you’re far from being alone. Even the über-glam Kate Winslet admitted on ‘The Graham Norton Show’ in 2015 that she can’t jump on a trampoline any more because she wets herself.

What is a ‘sensitive bladder’?

Some 30-40% of peri-menopausal women suffer with a sensitive bladder, according to a recent study. Problems range from leakage when you run, jump, dance, laugh, cough or sneeze (also known as ‘stress incontinence’), to that awful sudden awareness that ‘when you gotta go you gotta go’ (‘urge incontinence’). You may even experience a mix of both.

What are the causes of bladder sensitivity?

Age, weight, dwindling oestrogen at menopause, smoking, the way those of us who are mums gave birth (a big baby, forceps or ventouse delivery) all push up the risk of bladder sensitivity. Even our genes play a part according to the latest research.

What can be done to deal with bladder sensitivity?

These days there are more ways than ever to help ourselves. Read on to find out more…

  • Muscle up. It’s never too late to strengthen your pelvic floor. Practise those pelvic floor exercises (see below) six times a day and you should soon see results.

  • Mind your p’s and p’s. Pads can boost confidence and these days they’re soft, comfy, odourless and, most importantly, invisible. Try Always Discreet from pharmacies, supermarkets or You could also check out DiaryDoll, brainchild of TV presenter Carol Smillie. It’s a range of pretty panties designed to protect against leaks. £9.95 in black, white, pink or blue from Boots.

  • Get ahead, get an 'app.' Squeezy, the NHS-branded Pelvic Floor app designed by physio Myra Robson, has a pelvic floor muscle exercise plan you can tailor to your needs, an audio-visual guide and built in reminders. You can buy it for £2.99 from the AppStore or GooglePlay:

  • Join silicon valley. Elvie ‘your most personal trainer’ is a soft green silicon ‘pebble’ with built-in sensors that detect muscle contraction to help you squeeze your pelvic floor. Link by Bluetooth to your mobile or tablet to get a personalized programme, then view your progress onscreen to motivate you more. £149 from

  • Consider HRT. Oestrogen creams or pessaries can help restore vaginal health caused by loss of oestrogen at menopause. And because they’re topically applied and low-dosage they don’t have the same side-effect risks leveled at other forms of HRT. Ask your doctor if you could benefit.

  • Liberate your lingerie. UROSTEMOL FEMINA™, £19.99 (60 capsules) is a herbal product traditionally used to relieve symptoms of weak and overactive bladder.

  • There’s an op for that. If other measures don’t help, TVT (tension-free vaginal tape) is a minimally-invasive operation that involves inserting a synthetic tape through the vagina to support the urethra and bladder neck stopping leaks. Your doctor can advise about this.

Ones to watch

If you want to know more, there are some really inspired, informative and reassuring videos online.

Our Story, Life with Adult Incontinence – This beautifully-filmed stylish documentary is helping break the silence around sensitive bladder. Watch it here

Comedian Gussie Grips – Physiotherapist Elaine Miller has her audience wetting themselves with laughter at Edinburgh and other festivals. Watch her here.

How to do pelvic floor exercises

  1. Tighten your anus as if trying to stop passing wind.

  2. Now tighten your vagina and urethra (where urine comes out) as if trying to stop yourself weeing.

  3. Squeeze and lift the muscles for ten seconds, relax them for four, then squeeze again for ten.

  4. After doing ten fast squeezes, follow with ten slow ones.

  5. No improvement after about three months? Ask your GP to refer you for a pelvic floor assessment.

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