Living with incontinence

How to cope with incontinence, including advice on travelling, sex, skincare, hygiene and emotional wellbeing.

Enjoy good sex despite incontinence

Worries about embarrassing leaks during sex can mean you avoid intimate contact. This puts strain on relationships and damages your self-esteem and self-confidence.

There's no reason why anyone with bladder or bowel weakness can't enjoy intimate relationships.

If you empty your bladder and bowel and don't drink too much fluid before having sex, any leak probably won't be serious. Sex involves all sorts of bodily fluids, so a small leak probably won't even be noticed.

It can give you peace of mind to protect the bed. Bed pads, which absorb moisture and have a stay-dry cover, may be the most comfortable choice.

Prepare for local trips

People with incontinence can worry so much about needing the toilet, even on quick trips to the local shops, that they become virtually housebound.

You can get a key from the disability network RADAR that allows you to use disabled toilets around the country under the National Key Scheme

How to look after your skin

Constant dampness can make your skin irritated, but you can avoid this by following a simple routine.

Wash using a cotton cloth or disposable wipes (flannels and sponges can be too harsh). Use products that cleanse without drying. These are available as non-aerosol sprays, foams and disposable wipes.

Don't use soap as it makes the skin dry. And check that disposable wipes are alcohol-free to avoid skin irritation.

After cleansing, always moisturise and use a non-greasy barrier cream. This forms a protective layer to block out unwanted moisture.

What to take on holiday

Incontinence shouldn’t stop you going on holiday or staying with friends. The key is to plan ahead.

Take enough of all the products you use with you. Include a small bag containing your clean-up kit. This could contain a change of clothes, pads, handwash, wet wipes and plastic bags.

If you intend to do your own laundry, find out where you can wash and dry items in private, if necessary. A portable washing line and pegs can be useful.

If you're flying, pre-book an aisle seat near the toilet and wear loose-fitting clothes, as they're more comfortable and make changing easier.

Finally, pack a deodorising spray, which will remove odours, rather than just masking them.

How to manage incontinence at work

A study by the charity Bladder and Bowel UK (formerly PromoCon), which provides information and advice about incontinence products and services, found that coping with incontinence symptoms at work is a big source of anxiety for people with bladder and bowel problems, especially men.

Some people who told their colleagues or employer about their continence problems reported a negative response, while others found their boss supportive and understanding.

Contact the Bladder and Bowel UK confidential helpline on 0161 607 8219 (Mon-Fri 9am-4.30pm) or email bladderandboweluk@disabledliving.co.uk for advice on whether, and how, to tell your employer about your continence difficulties. The helpline can also suggest incontinence products that can help at work.

Fight depression with talking therapy

Incontinence can affect you mentally as well as physically. The negative effect on your self-esteem, dignity and independence can lead to isolation, distress and depression.

According to continence nurses, up to 70% of people with incontinence are affected by depressive illnesses.

It helps to talk to people you trust, so tell your friends and family how you're feeling.

Or ask your GP to refer you for counselling or other talking therapy.

For more tips, read 10 ways to stop the leaks.

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