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Mary, 59, on living with incontinence

“As if the menopause wasn’t bad enough”
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Mary's story

“Dealing with the menopause was bad enough but when I found I was suddenly wetting myself without warning it was a nightmare. 
 
I tried drinking less fluid, but this led to dehydration and headaches. Then I cut out all trips of over ten minutes, which left me feeling isolated. 
 
It was in my twenties, after my first child was born, that I realized I sometimes wet my pants when I sneezed. I made a makeshift pad from toilet paper and tried not to think about it – until it happened again. 
 
I had heard that childbirth could cause "bladder weakness". The muscles get stretched and weak, but could be exercised back to full strength. So at the time, I started a routine in the rest room of peeing and stopping repeatedly, and I did internal clenching exercises. For a few months I wore a normal sanitary towel, changing about four times a day. It was expensive, but I eventually regained control.
 
Three decades later, when I was menopausal, my ‘trouble’ came back. This time my homemade solutions didn’t help, and even sanitary towels weren’t enough.
 
I tried cutting out drinks, but I got dehydrated and the headaches came back. Then because I was scared of accidents happening, I stopped visiting friends for weekends or dinners out, which left me feeling disconnected. Carrying around changes of underwear, wipes, sanitary towels, air freshener, fabric freshener and deodorant and always wearing dark, baggy clothes made me feel as though I was going on a camping trip when in reality I was just going to have lunch with friends.
 
After 35 years of marriage, I even started sleeping in the spare bed! Finally, I went to my doctor. 
 
She explained how the menopause can bring on bladder weakness and there are special pads designed for urine that are leak proof and smell proof. The first time I bought them I was skeptical as the maxi pads hadn’t worked and these were even smaller. But actually they really do work and I feel much more confident.
 
Obviously I’d rather not have bladder weakness in the first place but at least now it’s only the hot flushes I have to worry about and not embarrassing leaks.”

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