Living with incontinence

Here are our tips on how to cope with the daily challenges of living 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, which 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 before having sex, any leak probably won't be serious. Sex involves all sorts of bodily fluids, so a small leak won't cause a problem, and 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 way.

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 if you have incontinence

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 and baby wipes, as they make the skin dry. Baby wipes often contain alcohol, which can irritate.

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

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

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.

While you're away, use a disabled toilet as there will be a washbasin and more room to change your clothes.

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

Tips for incontinence at work

It can be a struggle to manage bladder and bowel problems at work.

A study by Promocon (promoting continence and product awareness), 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.

This leaflet from PromoCon (PDF, 2.1Mb) gives advice on how to decide whether to tell your manager about your continence difficulties and suggests incontinence products that can help at work.

PromoCon also has information for employers (PDF, 459kb) about how they can support employees with incontinence.

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.

Now, read 10 ways to stop the leaks.

Page last reviewed: 13/01/2015

Next review due: 13/01/2017

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