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Common myths about bladder and pelvic floor disorders – Debunked

Woman relaxing laying in a chair drinking a cup of tea at her home. She has her eyes closed and the sun is shining through the windows behind her.

In today’s age of rapidly disseminated information, it can be hard to distinguish truth from myth, particularly when it comes to healthcare. One area of women’s health surrounded by a substantial amount of misinformation and misconceptions is urogynaecology: the assessment, management and treatment of bladder and pelvic floor disorders.

These misunderstandings can prevent women seeking help sooner for issues that they may initially dismiss but may go on to have a huge effect on wellbeing and quality of life when left untreated.

Our Consultant Gynaecologist Mr Abhishek Gupta, who specialises in female incontinence and prolapse, guides you through the facts and fiction surrounding urogynaecological health below.

Myth 1: Bladder problems are an inevitable aspect of ageing

While ageing can increase the risk of bladder problems such as stress incontinence and urge incontinence, they are not an inevitable consequence of getting older and should never be viewed as a normal part of ageing. Many factors, including lifestyle choices and overall health, influence bladder function.

Effective treatments, ranging from behavioural strategies to surgical interventions, exist to manage and improve urinary incontinence at any age.

Further guidance and advice on identifying and managing bladder problems is available here.

Myth 2: Only older women, and those who have given birth, experience pelvic floor issues

Pelvic floor issues, such as incontinence and prolapse, become more common as women get older due to changes in oestrogen levels which can cause thinning of the pelvic floor muscles, but isn’t the only contributing factor. Hormonal changes, genetics, chronic conditions, obesity, chronic constipation, heavy lifting and lifestyle choices all play a role in pelvic floor health.

Hormonal changes, genetics, chronic conditions, obesity, chronic constipation, heavy lifting and lifestyle choices all play a role in pelvic floor health.

Myth 3: Bladder pain syndrome (Interstitial cystitis) can be treated with antibiotics

Unlike urinary tract infections such as cystitis, bladder pain syndrome (BPS) or interstitial cystitis is not caused by a bacterial infection, so an antibiotic is not an effective treatment.

If you experience persistent pelvic pain or notice a change in your usual peeing pattern and suspect you may have BPS, see a GP. If your symptoms persist, they may refer you to a female urology specialist. There are treatment options available at Benenden Hospital for bladder pain syndrome.

Myth 4: Drinking less fluids can prevent urinary incontinence

Limiting fluid intake is not a recommended solution for preventing urinary incontinence.

Fluid restriction can increase the concentration of your urine, irritating the lining of the urinary tract and potentially worsening incontinence.

Adequate hydration is essential for overall health, and managing incontinence involves lifestyle adjustments such as weight loss, following a healthy diet and stopping smoking.

Your GP may suggest you avoid drinks containing caffeine, which can irritate the bladder, and fizzy drinks that can contain caffeine and artificial sweeteners. In addition to this, alcoholic drinks and acid in fruit juices can exacerbate problems.

Myth 5: You must drink six to eight glasses of water a day to maintain a healthy genitourinary system

There is no fixed amount of water that every person must consume daily. Sufficient fluid intake varies from person to person, and is dictated by your size, weight, how much you sweat, your level of activity and the air temperature on a given day.

However, as a guide, Kidney Research UK recommends women should aim to drink eight 200ml glasses of fluid a day, sipping water little and often. Follow your thirst response and drink enough to ensure your pee is a clear pale yellow colour.

Myth 6: Two trips to the toilet at night-time is normal

As single trip to the toilet during the night is perfectly normal, two visits may be more common in elderly people, but any more is referred to as nocturia: the frequent need to pee during the night.

Nocturia often increases with age and regular visits to the toilet during the night may indicate a problem, such as urge incontinence or a urinary tract infection (UTI), that can be treated.

If nocturia persists and is disrupting your sleep, consult your GP, who will determine if it’s caused by a treatable condition, and may suggest you are referred to a specialist. Some possible causes include reduced bladder capacity as a result of bladder pain syndrome or cystitis. Benenden Hospital offers treatment for urinary tract infections.

How we can help

Separating these common myths from fact is an important step towards making informed decisions about your urogynaecological health. Clearing up any misconceptions can be a positive spur to seek timely medical advice.

At Benenden Hospital, we offer a range of self-pay treatments, delivered by our expert Consultant Urogynaecologists, in a discreet environment.

To find out how we can help, contact our Private Patients team via LiveChat, by completing our online enquiry form or by calling us on 01580 363158.

Published on 09 April 2024