Having your first conversation about urinary incontinence probably won’t be easy—even if it’s with a healthcare provider who has heard it all before. It’s normal to be nervous, but don’t let that stop you. Being open about what’s happening is absolutely necessary if you want to get proper advice and treatment.
You’ll probably begin by talking with your primary care physician, perhaps during a regular appointment or annual physical. But what do you say? Don’t wait for the doctor to broach the subject. Jump right in with, “I’d like to talk about my bladder leaks” or “I’m wetting myself.” Phrase it any way that feels right for you.
Knowing what kind of information your doctor needs from you and what you need from your doctor can make it easier to talk about your urinary incontinence and make the conversation more productive. Write down pertinent information and your questions in advance to eliminate some of the pressure during the appointment. And don’t worry about being clinically correct!
The American Urogynecologic Society has created a “script” for starting the conversation with your doctor. You can download it here. Here are some relevant excerpts that might help you figure out how to frame the conversation:
1. I’m having the following symptom(s): _______________________________.
2. My symptoms started ______ (days, weeks, months, years) ago.
3. I have these symptoms ______ (daily, a few times a week, sometimes, etc.).
4. I want to find ways to treat or cure these symptoms.
1. What is causing my symptoms?
2. Will my symptoms get better?
3. What can I do to lessen or end these symptoms?
If all that sounds like too much to recite out loud, you can print out the PDF, fill in the blanks and just show it to the doctor. Then the real conversation can start.
With the preliminaries out of the way, it will be the doctor’s time to ask you some more specific questions about how bladder leaks are affecting you and your life and do an examination. This is where even the most confident among us can lose courage. Try to relax and respond to questions as honestly and simply as possible. Don’t let embarrassment get in the way. It’s important not to diminish your incontinence or the inconvenience and pain it causes. Tell your doctor not only about the physical aspect of having an accident but how it makes you feel. Peeing even a little can have a big emotional impact. Your doctor needs to know that.
You and your body deserve the best care. So, take a deep breath and remember that you are not your health condition. A leaky bladder is the least interesting thing about you, and you are managing it the best way you know how. And if you still feel shaky bringing it up with your doctor—or anyone else for that matter—don’t hesitate to enlist your partner or a friend for moral support.