We are part of a pivotal moment in history. Women everywhere who have lived their entire lives believing in autonomy and control over their healthcare never could have imagined that the clock would be turned back half a century when it comes to women’s health and reproductive rights. While that fiery debate burns hotter than ever, and women state to state will be living with very different rights and rules, this current women’s health moment is bringing with it some very positive energy and momentum. With the female anatomy in focus, we are seeing more open and honest dialogues about health-related issues that were once cloaked in veils of shame and secrecy. Now more than ever – it is critical to seize the moment and put an end to any stigma associated with health issues that women struggle with daily, but are often too embarrassed to discuss.
One such issue is Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI. This specific kind of incontinence is caused by a weakening of the pelvic floor and is often brought on by pregnancy or delivery and/or age impacts one in three women worldwide. In the over 50 age bracket, SUI impacts one in two women. That means half of all women over 50 struggle with this historically stigmatized issue. Some may experience the occasional embarrassing leak that accompanies a strong sneeze or hearty laugh, while others may struggle with more intense incontinence.
Regardless of those staggering numbers, it remains a shameful secret that most of those 303 million women affected are not addressing due to embarrassment or lacking the strength to take control of their health “down there.” So, for too long, women have lived every day with growing feelings of shame, isolation, and depression. They skip the family trip to the beach; they avoid jumping on the trampoline with their children; they miss special occasions and vacations – all because they worry. Will my light leaks get worse? Do I smell? What if I leave urine behind on the chair?
Many women think their incontinence is “not bad enough” for surgery or treatment. But they don’t realize that it can – and will – get worse, and is easier to treat early. But most of the treatment options are expensive and invasive – including surgery, pelvic floor physical therapy, and vaginal devices to strengthen the pelvic floor. Other women will opt to just keep buying and wearing pads (an expensive, sometimes messy, often limiting, and potentially awkward proposition).
There are now more options available to women who truly want to live life leak-free, but the lack of discussion means women aren’t aware. The time is upon us to truly take away the stigma. We need to be able to openly and honestly discuss this very natural medical matter with one another and with professionals who can help. We need to ensure that women everywhere have a full understanding of all of their options. That starts with removing the curtain.
Women need to know that SUI is indeed a manageable condition and there are at-home options to take charge of their urinary stress incontinence health. There are products
available that are external, comfortable, and can be used discreetly while going about your daily activities. The secret to strengthening the pelvic floor is, was, and will always be Kegel exercises: highly targeted and repeated contracting and relaxing of the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor. Kegel exercises are difficult to master, as one-quarter of women perform them incorrectly, and for the rest, it is hard to do them sufficiently enough to provide a benefit. There are external devices that essentially do your Kegel exercises for you, longer and stronger than you can on your own, all while dressed and doing whatever you need to do. And, women are able to successfully reduce (or eliminate) urinary leaks and pad use!
Quality healthcare begins with knowledge and the ability to ask questions and learn what our bodies need. Women are strong, smart, and resilient. We are far too precious to allow secrets or shame to keep us from living the full and rich lives we deserve at age 50 and beyond. Let’s all do our part to keep talking, share our knowledge with friends and family, consult with our physicians whenever we are struggling and most of all to remove the stigma associated with SUI.
By Gloria Kolb, Founder, and CEO of ELITONE, Biomedical Engineer & Mom of 3 A mom and an accomplished engineer, Gloria Kolb experienced pelvic floor issues that caused leaks/incontinence after delivering her babies. Gloria put her knowledge and experience to use and created ELITONE: the first external, EFFECTIVE treatment for female incontinence. The FDA-cleared ELITONE does not require a prescription. Learn more at https://elitone.com.
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