Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on June 22, 2012


Olympian Mary Lou Retton. Celia Dominguez, MD, Emory Reproductive Center. WebMD Feature: Incontinence: A Woman's Little Secret.

© 2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Video Transcript

Narrator: She's been America's sweetheart since the 1984 Games. Only 4 foot, 9 inches, little Mary Lou Retton scored tall—winning gold with a perfect 10 despite a serious knee injury. But that wasn't the only obstacle she faced.

Mary Lou Retton: I would have that small fear in the back of my mind…oh, my goodness, what happens if I have to go to the bathroom?

Narrator: Like millions of women, Mary Lou Retton has urinary incontinence. The type she has is called urge incontinence or overactive bladder and is caused by involuntary spasms of the bladder muscles.

Mary Lou Retton: During just one day, I went to the bathroom as often as 20 to 25 times.

Narrator: She spoke to WebMD about her overactive bladder during a 2005 audio taping.

Mary Lou Retton: I lived with this condition my entire life without knowing it. I always justified and made excuses for why I had to go to the bathroom so much.

Narrator: Treatments for overactive bladder include: eliminating bladder irritants such as caffeine and alcohol; limiting or timing your daily fluid intake; medications that relax the bladder; bladder training – such as lengthening the times between trips to the bathroom; scheduling toilet trips at regular times during the day; and pelvic strengthening exercises such as Kegels.

Celia Dominguez, MD: The definition of a Kegel for a female is to attempt to hold your urine. And the act of holding your urine increases that muscle tone.

Narrator: A Chinese therapy involving a series of graduated vaginal weights can help hone those muscles even more.

Celia Dominguez, MD: So what the female is trying to do is trying to squeeze that sling, that hammock, that surrounds the vagina and hold up the weight without allowing it to slip through. As the weights get heavier and heavier they will tend to start sliding down and the female, to be able to hold onto that weight, just like holding their urine, will have to clamp down on the weight.

Narrator: For Mary Lou, medication was the answer. Whatever the solution, it can only work when women ask for help.

Mary Lou Retton: So if I can help bring attention or bring down that wall of embarrassment, then I will do what I can to help.

Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Sandee LaMotte