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Bladder and Bowel 2019

Incontinence and mental health are linked

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Jane Brocksom

Urology and Continence Nurse Specialist and BAUN President

Whether it’s celebrities talking or something you see on the TV, urinary incontinence is becoming more well-known. But that doesn’t mean we’re doing anything about it.


For one in three women, urinary incontinence is something they will have to endure throughout their lives. Whether it was the outcome of pregnancy or the onset of menopause, there is certainly more acceptance these days that it can happen. However, little is mentioned about the psychological effects suffering can have.

Incontinence can cause anxiety and embarrassment

The anxiety that women can feel while suffering from urinary incontinence is a personal interest for Urology and Continence Nurse Specialist, Jane Brocksom, President of The British Association of Urological Nurses. “Mental health and incontinence go hand-in-hand,” she says.

“I have ladies who can only plan a trip into town if they know where all the toilets will be. It is even stopping previously outgoing ladies from leaving the house because they are scared they might leak and embarrass themselves. It really is debilitating.”

And with scandals in the media such as the Mesh campaign, there often seems like little choice for women but to suffer in silence. However, that’s not the case says Brocksom.

“Often, I find that the act of speaking up and talking to your GP or a specialist nurse is half the battle. I find that, for a lot of ladies, being able to have a good chat and examine why you might be suffering often goes a long way to resolving some of the problems.”

If I can help a woman to feel able to leave the house or pick the grandkids up, that’s a huge step forward.

Feel yourself again with lifestyle re-training

With women often juggling young families and older parents, there can be little opportunity to think of their own health. But often a frank and honest chat with a professional can help women to re-evaluate their drinking and toilet habits.

“I can’t remember learning to drink or go to the toilet” says Brocksom. “Sometimes we just need a bit of re-education. We might drink five cups of tea a day and think we’re hydrated, but we’re not getting the good stuff that we need. Equally, our lives are more sedentary, so if we’re sat on an office chair for most of the day, our pelvic floor muscles just aren’t getting any training. And it’s this lifestyle evaluation that a health professional can offer.”

A work out for your pelvic floor

Today’s women have little training on the pelvic floor, or the need to rest after childbirth, so with the onset of the menopause causing the pelvic floor to weaken, it can often come as a shock that the body is not as robust as it once was.

“It’s being able to evaluate and say I can’t do at 60 what I could do at 18, but how can I improve and continue to live my life?” adds Brocksom. “If I can help a woman to feel able to leave the house or pick the grandkids up, that’s a huge step forward.”

Certainly for Brocksom, making sure that women have access to specialist continence nurses is a big concern of hers. She says: “Women just need to know that there is someone there who cares about them. Mentally, that can make all the difference.”

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