The stigma of incontinence

February 7, 2018 | By More

Our latest blog is a brilliant and personal account by one of our clients describing her experience of encountering the stigma of incontinence. We are very appreciative of Nicola for writing this piece as we think that it will help and reassure others with similar experiences.

The Stigma of Incontinence

By Nicola Hampson

Stigma is typically defined as the discrimination (by action) and prejudice (with words) of a subject that others are fearful of, usually through ignorance.  You would recognise mental health, suicide and stillbirth as some common examples.

I discovered a new one yesterday –  incontinence. 

When I responded to a Facebook post, supporting the incontinence treatments offered by Evidence-Based Therapy Centre, Galway, I received a lot of comments, mostly from those concerned that I had ‘broadcast’ myself as availing of this service. What prompted me to write this article was the fact that no one responded via Facebook, no one wanted to be publicly part of the discussion –  well I’m happy to discuss it.

I experienced a period of anxiety a few years ago and at the same time began to be “caught short” with my “distressed bladder”. In simple terms, the message that I needed to relieve myself came too late for me physically to get to the toilet in time.  I had several embarrassing situations which only added to my general anxiety in social situations.

I assumed this was going to be something else I would have to learn to manage and began looking at products that would help. There are all sorts of pads and panty liners out there – easily available in supermarkets, which proved to me that this is happening to many women – not just me.

During a session with Roisin, my clinical psychologist at Evidence-Based Therapy Centre, I mentioned what had been happening (it was probably part of a “poor me” offload). She was concerned and surprised that I had linked it to my anxiety as this was not something that usually occurred.  She asked if had I tried pelvic floor exercises? Now as one who hasn’t experienced childbirth, where these skills are normally honed, I had no idea, really no clue, what she was actually talking about!  The shock must have shown as I struggled to contain a nervous smile.

The clinic has a Women’s Health physiotherapist as part of the team, so I made an appointment and was seen within the week. She immediately put me at my ease with her perfect mix of professionalism and genuine care. We discussed my symptoms at length, then after an internal examination, which was so less painful and awkward than a smear test, the diagnosis was in. Yes, I had weak pelvic floor muscles – but my physiotherapist quickly advised that this is treatable and, with some work, within a few weeks, I could be back to normal.

However, there was still a tricky part, teaching me how to clench and unclench the desired muscles! After some false starts and after acquiring the apt concentration I succeeded.

My homework was to do a set of the exercises each day. When I voiced the concern that realistically, this would be hard to stick to, we devised a plan incorporating them into my daily meditations. I had no excuse now!

A few weeks on, as promised, the situation stopped occurring.

Today, almost two years later there hasn’t been a recurrence and if I remember, I do a few of the exercises for good measure!


Loss of bladder control causing leakage is more common than one would think. Nobody should ignore their leaks or put up with being wet because help is available. The problem can be improved or fully resolved with physiotherapy. So let’s get talking, let’s spread the word, rid ourselves of any stigma we may have around the issue of continence and let’s regain bladder control!

If you would like to book an appointment with Sylvia Farrell – our specialist Women’s & Men’s Health physiotherapist, you can call the clinic on 091 727777 or get in touch via the contact page.


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