Overactive bladder (OAB) takes its toll on many aspects of your life, including your interpersonal relationships. For many of the estimated 30 million Americans who live with OAB -- especially women -- sex can be excruciatingly painful, not to mention tinged with the fear of leakage and/or odor.
Regardless of what caused your OAB, from medication side effects or neurological conditions to urinary tract infections or pregnancy, “if you are experiencing frequency, urgency, or pain in the bladder area that is exacerbated by sexual relations, it can be a barrier," says Jennifer Berman, MD, a urologist and sexual health expert at the Berman Women’s Wellness Center in Los Angeles. She is also the author of several books, including For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide to Reclaiming Your Sex Life.
Overactive bladder isn't something that comes up in the course of everyday conversation. In fact, most women are reluctant to discuss their bladder issues with anyone -- even their best friend. Who wants to proclaim, "I'm always running to the bathroom, and sometimes I just don't make it"?
Because of the relative silence surrounding overactive bladder, it can be hard to find support when you need it. “The woman who’s just delivered a child and finds she isn’t getting bladder control back -- she...
"Oftentimes, women with OAB worry about urine leakage during sex or orgasm," according to Berman.
OAB or urinary incontinence can cause physical symptoms as well as fear, anxiety, and shame about sex and intimacy, she says.
But how or when do you tell a new (or even an old partner) that you have OAB? What can you do to minimize your symptoms so they don’t affect your relationships? We’ve got the answers to all your questions about OAB and sex.
Talking About OAB and Sex
Although it can be hard for women to talk about OAB or sex, it may be even harder to talk about OAB and sex.
But “OAB is extremely common and there are treatments,” Berman says.
If someone is not sexually active because of OAB, she suggests cutting back on fluid and avoiding caffeine and other OAB triggers such as alcohol and chocolate.
Trying to urinate every two or three hours can also help re-train your bladder, she says.
If behavior changes fail, there are several medications currently available to treat OAB. Other OAB treatments include various surgical procedures, and there has been some success using Botox injections to stop bladder contractions.