If you have an overactive bladder, you’re not alone. About 25% of women over 18 have experienced urine leakage, and one in five adults over age 40 have OAB or problems with urge or frequency. But it may feel like you’re alone, because OAB is something many people are embarrassed to talk about.
OAB can be very isolating, say experts. You may find yourself only going out to places you know well, where you’re sure you can get to the bathroom in time. You may forgo things like movies and plays because of the constant need to excuse yourself in the middle of the show.
Urinary incontinence, the involuntary loss of urine, affects an estimated 25 million Americans, mostly women. For most, incontinence is the result of problems controlling the bladder. For people with a type called functional incontinence, however, the problem lies in getting to and using the toilet when the need arises.
And you may find your relationships suffering. Studies have found that women with urinary incontinence issues are more likely to avoid intimate relationships and sexual activity. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re prepared to talk about your OAB with a partner -- whether it’s someone you’re newly dating or a long-term relationship -- you might find that you are less embarrassed by it and may have set a foundation for honesty in the relationship.
When It's Time to Talk About OAB
If you think your OAB may interfere with a sexual relationship -- for example, if you have urine leakage during sex or worry that this might happen
If your OAB is significant enough that it’s interrupting your dates -- for example, if you’re excusing yourself from the table multiple times at romantic dinners
If your anxiety about your OAB is making it hard for you to be comfortable when spending time with your partner
If you find yourself turning down or canceling plans because you fear that you won’t be able to control your overactive bladder
If you’re planning a trip or making other plans that involve spending a lot of time together
In general, it’s better to bring up a difficult topic yourself than to wait until your partner has become uncomfortable enough to ask you about it. You may be surprised to find that your partner is relieved to learn that the problem is OAB rather than something more medically serious or an impending breakup.