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At Work With Incontinence

Tips for getting through long meetings and business lunches.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Staff meetings, client lunches, customer calls. In your workday, incontinence can be unsettling. You're taking lots of breaks -- even during big client meetings. You're away from your desk every time your boss comes by. You reach the office flustered one morning -- the dark stain on your clothes all too obvious.

If your boss asks, is it anyone's business? Do you need to confide? And certainly, how can you prevent these incontinence accidents from happening?

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"It's a very private, personal problem -- and I'm not sure you need to explain it at work," says May Wakamatsu, MD, chief of Vincent Urogynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "All you need to say is, 'I have a medical problem that requires treatment.'"

She's written notes for women who need an excuse to get up every two hours. Preventing those incontinence accidents -- including little leaks -- takes forethought, she says. It also requires the right incontinence products.

Your Strategy for Handling Incontinence

Stock up on good-quality pads. Absorbent incontinence pads are different from menstrual pads, Wakamatsu tells WebMD. "They have powder like diapers do, which turns to gel and holds more fluid so they are more protective. If you're going into a big meeting, that's what you need."

Invest in odor preventers. "These are slow-release capsules that, when in contact with fluid, liberate a pleasant odor. They are contained in incontinence products," explains Roger R. Dmochowski, MD, director of the Vanderbilt Continence Center in Nashville. "But there are also sprays that act as odor absorbers."

Nix the caffeine or water. "If you sit in a meeting and drink two or three cups of coffee, your bladder will be full. When you stand up, you may leak," says Wakamatsu. The caffeine in coffee makes it a diuretic -- which further ups your chances of having an accident. Avoiding excessive water intake is also important if you have urinary incontinence. Most people go to the bathroom every three or four hours. That’s a good way to gage if you’re getting enough water.

Love those black pants (or skirts). Dark-colored business attire is timeless. It also hides a multitude of problems, including little stains. "Don't ever wear a color that shows fluid," Wakamatsu says. "You may even want to bring a change of clothes."

Practice Kegels. "Even in meetings, you can practice Kegels," says Wakamatsu. "No one will ever know." Kegel exercises are a method of managing leakage from stress incontinence. You learn to feel the pelvic muscle that controls the bladder -- then tighten that muscle at the right instant. If you leak when you laugh, tighten up at that moment. To do Kegels, contract the muscles that you would use to stop the flow of urine. Hold the contraction for three seconds and then relax. Do this eight to 10 times, at least three times a week.

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How does incontinence affect your life?