For words you might want to know more
Kegel refers to a series of exercises performed by a woman to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, involving repetitions of both sustained and rapid voluntary contractions of the muscles and used especially to treat urinary incontinence and improve sexual function. Kegel weights can be added to the vagina to improve the tone and increase the effectiveness of the exercise.
Your pelvic floor muscles form the bottom of your pelvis and support your pelvic organs (uterus, bladder, and bowel). Your pelvic floor muscles are the muscles you would use to stop your stream of urine or keep yourself from passing wind or pooping.
Timed voiding is a fixed time interval toileting plan where you 'train' the bladder to wait for longer intervals before emptying. It may also be an effective management for urinary incontinence to give the person some control over their bladder function.
For many of us, the workplace is a tricky one when it comes to managing bladder weakness. Feeling that all too familiar urgency during a meeting or call, or being conscious of a co-worker who comments on your frequent trips to the loo can make even the steeliest of us a little anxious about managing a bladder condition at work.
There’s nothing worse than feeling the ‘jiggle’ start while you are chatting over the watercooler - and how many of us have struggled to find that ‘right time’ in a meeting where you can slip out to nip to the loo? Even when working from home on Zoom there’s a pressure not to get up and distract the meeting for a toilet trip.
However, there are some things that we can do that can help reduce the distraction of a nagging bladder during the working day.
"I always carry spare pants, because at one point I was full on weeing myself. It got to a ridiculous point where every time I stood up, I was weeing in work, fearing puddles on my chair and working out how far the loos were from my desk."
"I bought one of those Kegel machines but I felt like I had a space hopper inside me - and I sneezed and it flew out! But I also take meds and these have been brilliant."
"I literally map my life’s activities around toilets. On the way to work last week, I was obliged to sneak into a bush to wee, so urgent was the need. I’m not sure how I’ll navigate this every week."
"One of the best things I experienced was dialling into a 'Women's Health Hour' in work where we discussed periods in the workplace, menopause etc. Bladder issues came up and so many women spoke up. They set up an anonymous comment stream at the side so people could share their experiences anonymously and anyone could dial in. A number of male managers said it was so informative for them to hear the issues women can experience and how they could support women in their teams."
Our community concluded that it was important to talk to your GP about medication, plan ahead where possible to scope out where toilets are in advance, always do your pelvic floor exercises (they’re hard to fit into the schedule but are worth it!) and share your experiences with others going through the same thing for emotional support.
Reducing caffeine and fluid intake
We know, you are likely built on foundations of coffee beans like us but unfortunately for you and me both, caffeine is the number one trigger that can leave you pelting for the loo. Taking sips of water rather than gulps will help your bladder and try to avoid fizzy drinks as they can stimulate the bladder too.
Make pelvic floor exercises part of your everyday routine
One of the battles with pelvic floor exercises is making them habitualAnd in terms of pelvic floor exercises, one of the battles is often making them habitual so it’s useful to attach them to another habit i.e. doing them when you take a shower or when you boil the kettle or when you are watching a specific programme or waiting for the tube. Once you have attached the habit to another habit then you’re more likely to do them! There is also a theory that if you commit to a habit for 21 days then it should become a habit. So if you can keep doing your pelvic floor exercises at a particular time for that period then the habit should stick!
Keep a bladder diary
Many GPs will ask you to do this but if not, it’s a good idea to keep a bladder diary to work out any urge or stress incontinence triggers, along with dietary factors. Simply note how often you go to the toilet, roughly how much you wee, what drinks and foods you’ve consumed and any other factors that may have occurred around the time you have felt the urge. This all helps to build a picture to help you, and your GP understand your condition better.
Timed voids are simply a different method of ‘training’ your bladder to know when it’s a good time to wee and this can be effective for managing your condition at work when loo breaks might not be easy! Rather than going to the toilet when you feel the urge or a full bladder, timed voiding is when you schedule loo breaks around the clock.
To start timed voiding, set yourself a timer for every 15 mins and when you feel comfortable with that, extend the period by 5 or 10 minutes every time. The idea is that you increase the intervals only as long as you feel comfortable to do so - don’t push yourself too hard too soon. It’s an idea to do this while off work for a while so that your bladder feels relaxed and there isn’t the risk of interruption or distraction from the plan. Training your bladder might be the last thing you want to spend annual leave on but it could be the answer you are looking for!
Overall, managing your bladder at work can be made less stressful if you keep these tips in mind and remember there will be many others who are going through the self-same things.