"I'm more sensitive now to women when they say they've 'gotta go,'" says
51-year-old professional speaker, author, and prostate cancer survivor Chuck
Gallagher. The Greenville, S.C., resident experienced mild incontinence for six weeks
following his laparoscopic surgery. "Guys don't want to talk about it; it's
embarrassing. They think they have to suck it up and deal with it."
And men aren't the only ones who don't want to talk about their little leaks
or mild incontinence.
According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), 25 million
Americans suffer from transient or chronic urinary
incontinence. Statistically, it's a condition that skews toward women;
75%-80% of sufferers are female. Even more staggering, women wait nearly seven
years before talking to their doctor or seeking treatment. But regardless of
gender, one-third of the population thinks incontinence is a natural part of
aging, something they have to contend with rather than conquer.
"It's time for incontinence to come out of the 'water closet,'" says Jill
Rabin, MD, chief of ambulatory care and urogynecology at Long Island Jewish
Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. She is the co-author of Mind Over
Bladder: I Never Met a Bathroom I Didn't Like. "This is a
quality-of-life issue. You don't have to tolerate it. It's treatable in almost
Talking about a leaky bladder or the frequency of your bathroom breaks may
not be fodder for Facebook updates. But more and more people are taking Rabin's
advice and doing something about their incontinence. WebMD talked to real women
and men who experienced incontinence at various points in their lives. Read on
for their stories.
Meet Tasha Mulligan of Des Moines, Iowa. The physical therapist, athletic
trainer, triathlete, and mother of three refused to let mild incontinence slow
"The topic of incontinence isn't one that I have always been focused on, but
my own journey through pregnancy and delivery pushed me
into the women's health field of physical therapy five years ago. After my
delivery, my pelvic floor just didn't bounce back," she tells WebMD. "Then I
began to realize that a lot of my female patients would laugh and joke about
wetting their pants as I asked them to perform specific exercises. My
grandmother talked about her uterine prolapse, and my pregnant friends were
asking a lot of questions about why they couldn't hold their bladder. I began
to realize the widespread effect of weak pelvic floor muscles."
This revelation -- that women are disproportionately affected by
incontinence -- spurred her to action.
"Just like after knee surgery when we have to do exercises to ensure that
our quadricep muscle will fire again and resume normal strength, we should also
our pelvic floors after the trauma of pregnancy and delivery to keep us
continent and 'supported,'" says Mulligan.