Why we need to talk about incontinence

It’s World Continence Week, an important chance to talk about a very challenging and often very distressing subject. But it needn’t be that way. 

Incontinence is not uncommon and involves the involuntary leakage of stools or urine. Many people often say they’ve had “an accident” when this occurs. 

In the UK an estimated 1 in 6 people over 40 suffer with Overactive Bladder (OAB) and nearly half of all adults with OAB don’t seek help.* 1 in 10 adults are believed to suffer with faecal incontinence in the UK*. These really are very common conditions.

Quality of Life

These conditions can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, particularly if left untreated. People who experience urinary or faecal incontinence often start to limit their time outside of the house and avoid social or physical activities. On top of the stress of managing the physical symptoms they can become isolated and their mental wellbeing can deteriorate. 

Women are at greater risk 

Women are at greater risk of developing bladder and bowel problems during pregnancy and after childbirth as their pelvic floor muscles can become weakened or injured. The pelvic floor plays a vital role in coordinating and controlling urination, passage of a bowel motion and supporting the reproductive organs – you can learn more about your pelvic floor here. 

Whilst incontinence can be unpleasant and distressing, there are management and treatment options available and the earlier help is sought the better. If you’re experiencing any involuntary leakage of urine or stools then we would encourage you to see your GP as a first step, you shouldn’t suffer in silence. They may then refer you to a medical specialist depending on what the major symptoms are (for example you might benefit from seeing a gynaecologist, or a gastroenterologist or a urologist), or a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy specialist.

Simple changes to your diet, bladder retraining and pelvic floor muscle exercises can all make a big difference and can be easily implemented into your day. 

Initial steps to help you tackle incontinence:

  • Reduce your caffeine (tea, coffee, soft drinks) intake if you have urine or stool incontinence – caffeine causes you to pass more urine and acts as a stimulant for the gut 
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption as alcohol increases your need to urinate and also stimulates gut activity
  • Reduce your total fibre intake if suffering with stool incontinence as high fibre diets increase bowel transit
  • Pelvic floor exercises
  • Pelvic floor exercises
  • And more pelvic floor exercise


So please, if you are experiencing any involuntary leakage of urine or stools then please do talk to your GP as a first step, help is available.

*NHS England, Excellence in Continence Care, 2018
Image courtesy of Tim Mossholder 


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