Even the most blunt, out-spoken women tend to clam up if they have one of
these three potentially embarrassing medical problems: incontinence, irritable
bowel syndrome (IBS), and diminished female sexual libido.
If you're like many other women, you'd rather live with the sometimes
distressing symptoms of these conditions than broach the subject at your next
doctor's office visit.
From its first year of publication, GH has urged readers to live healthfully
— to take "a walk before breakfast" (1885), "eat more fish" (1932), and get "at
least eight hours of sleep" (1933). The tips here, whether from our early days
or fresh from the latest journals, have one thing in common: They are based on
the best expertise of their time.
You're likely to be embarrassed, believe few others have the problem, just
wish it would go away -- or all of the above.
But all of these conditions can affect your relationships and your sense of
wellbeing. And treatment can provide relief of the symptoms, and in some cases,
eliminate the condition altogether.
Here’s what you need to know about each of these conditions so you can get
help, and start enjoying life again.
Overcoming Incontinence Symptoms
In recent years, incontinence has come out of the closet, thanks to U.S.
Olympic speed skater Bonnie Blair and Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton, who both
have publicly acknowledged their problems with incontinence, and raised public
Incontinence can affect women of all ages, but is more common as women get
older. Incontinence is not, however, an inevitable part of aging.
Urinary incontinence affects an estimated 12 million U.S. adults.
Symptoms depend on the type of urinary incontinence you have, according to
Halina Zyczynski, MD, director of the division of Urogynecology and
Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery at Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, Penn. The
two most common types are stress and urge incontinence.
In stress incontinence, you often leak urine when you push or pull objects,
cough, sneeze, laugh, or exercise. Your pelvic floor muscles, which support the
bladder, are weakened -- often due to childbirth -- and that weakness causes
In urge incontinence, as the name implies, you have a sudden need to urinate
and may not be able to get to the bathroom soon enough to avoid leaking urine.
While it is not completely understood, experts think the bladder muscle may
give the wrong message to the brain, because the bladder feels more full than
it really is. You may feel the urge to void even if you have just done so.
One treatment option for incontinence symptoms is to wear panty liners or
protective garments if the urine leakage is small. You can also start
performing Kegel exercises, which strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Biofeedback training is sometimes given in combination with pelvic floor
Injection of a bulking agent around the bladder neck and the urethra
(urine-carrying tube) can help reduce stress incontinence, Zyczynski says.
Another option is a surgical procedure in which a strap of natural tissue or
other materials helps support the urethra.
Overcoming Irritable Bowel Syndrome
One in five adult Americans is affected by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS),
according to the Digestive Disease Clearinghouse of the National Institutes of
Health (NIH). The problem is more likely to strike women than men. Half of
those who suffer are affected before age 35.