Active living

How To Live With Incontinence

Millions of people are living with incontinence in the UK. In its various forms and challenging symptoms, it is not an easy experience to adjust to. However, in this article, you will find all the information you need to understand how to ease living with incontinence, including what incontinence means, the numbers affected by the condition in the UK, attitudes and awareness about incontinence, risk factors for developing it, as well as using incontinence pads and pull up pants that can help make things easier. 

Before we begin, we have multiple articles that focus specifically on incontinence, and the various topics associated with it. For more information, check out our advice centre which is exclusive to Hartmann Direct UK.

Mother and daughter having a conversation

What Does Incontinence Mean?

Incontinence derives from the Latin word 'incontinens' which means 'not containing;' this describes the inability to control your bladder. This condition can affect people of different age groups. While it's more commonly associated with elderly people, particularly those aged over 65, it's important to be aware of the causes of bladder weakness and incontinence, since it isn't exclusive to a specific age or gender group.

In fact, urinary incontinence, which includes conditions like stress incontinence - (where urine leaks during physical exertion) - affects women three times more than men. Pregnancy is also a common cause, so be sure to consider the correlation between pregnancy and incontinence to maintain bladder health and control.

It is also important to be aware of faecal incontinence, which, although less common, can occur in all age groups. 

Products for women

Take a look at our incontinence products for women



Incontinence in the UK

While incontinence affects millions worldwide, our focus here is on its impact within the UK. Despite the significant increase in incontinence in the UK, many remain uncertain and unaware of the condition or the treatments that are available. Some consider there to be a stigma surrounding incontinence, which can lead to dealing with incontinence anxiety



Who May Be Affected in the UK?

Statistics have shown who is most likely to be affected by incontinence in the UK, and highlights how long people delay a diagnosis. On average, one in five people are aware that they have incontinence. These statistics underscore the urgent need to break the silence surrounding incontinence, because an earlier diagnosis will help in preventing or easing the condition sooner.

Not consulting a healthcare professional about the condition can gradually allow the effects to worsen, and while it may seem daunting, getting a prompt diagnosis is better than leaving your concerns unnoticed. Even speaking to family and friends can help to make you feel more confident and supported when discussing it openly, therefore, breaking the embarrassment around incontinence.

Risk Factors for Incontinence

Incontinence can be influenced by various factors, including:


  • Age: As mentioned earlier, elderly people are more susceptible to incontinence due to age-related changes in the urinary tract.

  • Obesity: Excess weight can put additional pressure on the bladder and pelvic muscles.

  • Pregnancy: Women who have given birth, especially multiple times, may face a higher risk, as well as how the baby arrives during birth.

  • Hysterectomy: Surgical procedures like a hysterectomy can impact bladder control.

  • Race: Studies show different types of incontinence are more common in different racial groups. 

  • Mobility: Limited mobility can affect the ability to access toilet facilities quickly, which can also affect how often you should wee. Understanding functional incontinence is the first step towards effectively managing the condition.

  • Diabetes: This chronic condition can contribute to nerve damage affecting bladder control.

  • Dementia: Cognitive impairments can lead to communication difficulties relating to incontinence.

  • Menopause and Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HMRT): Hormone changes during the menopause and hormonal treatments can influence bladder health.

  • Infections: Lower urinary tract symptoms and infections can exacerbate incontinence.

  • Smoking: Studies have shown that smoking will increase the effects of incontinence.

Undertaking a risk assessment with your health care professional can help you to determine the factors that may influence your incontinence type. 


Why You Are Not Alone With Incontinence

In the UK, bladder problems (in men) and urinary incontinence is more widespread than what you might think. Statistics reveal that approximately one in five people, spanning all age groups, are living with bladder issues. To put this into perspective, that's nearly the equivalent of the entire population of those over the age of 60 in the UK. The scale of incontinence is further emphasised by estimates from the NHS, which suggests that between three and six million people in the UK experience a form of urinary incontinence. To help determine whether you have urinary incontinence, follow our advice about the causes of urinary incontinence.

When it comes to faecal incontinence, studies indicate that it affects approximately 1.4% of the general population over 40 years old in the UK. Another common concern is constipation, which impacts between 3% and 15% of the population. These figures underscore the fact that incontinence is not an isolated issue; it affects a substantial portion of the UK population, across various age groups and backgrounds. Knowing that you are not alone in facing this challenge can be a reassuring starting point for learning how to live with incontinence.

Why Use Incontinence Products

For those living with incontinence, we highly recommend using our range of incontinence products, which can help the experience of managing incontinence and will allow you to continue with your daily activities without worries of leaks. Incontinence products come in a range of styles, pads, pants and adult nappies, all of which can help with the following instances:

  • Optimal Overflow Protection: The overwhelming concern is to ensure a sense of dryness and comfort. Incontinence pads and disposable pants can be tailored to everyone’s size. MoliCare products are designed with an anatomical shape and a liquid-repellent inner cuff which will aid in establishing comfort and security, allowing you to go about your daily life confidently.
  • Skin Health: Keeping your skin in good condition while wearing incontinence products is essential for an easier and more comfortable experience. You could use skin care products alongside your incontinence pads.

  • Discreet: Maintaining privacy and dignity is at the forefront of our mission to help you live well with incontinence. The discreet design, along with the neutralising urine odour functions, will make everyday life a lot easier. You can learn more by checking out our guide on how to control incontinence smells.


How to Live with Incontinence

Living with incontinence doesn't have to be complicated. Here are some straightforward ways to help you manage the condition effectively:

Plan Ahead: Before heading out, take a moment to plan your day with incontinence in mind. If certain activities or exercises trigger leaks, consider alternatives that are more bladder-friendly. For instance, if using the stair-climbing machine at the gym causes issues, try a stationary bicycle instead. 


Additionally, consider carrying incontinence products with you, especially if you anticipate spending extended periods away from home. You could also research the location of toilets along your route to help you locate them quickly and easily when you are out.


Drink Wisely: We recommend drinking five to six cups of water a day to prevent dehydration, whilst limiting the consumption of tea, coffee, and other caffeine related fluids, as these diuretics which remove excess fluid will make you wee more of the fluid anyway. Consult your GP for further guidance on the right amount of fluids to consume per day, as well as the integration of bladder friendly drinks


Identify Trigger Points: Certain foods and drinks can exacerbate your symptoms. Alcohol and caffeine-containing items are common culprits. Spicy foods, high-acid foods like citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks can also increase the urgency to urinate. If you notice that your incontinence worsens after consuming these, consider reducing or eliminating them from your diet.




How to Manage Incontinence

You can learn how to live with and manage incontinence daily with some of these essential tips:

  • Pelvic Floor Exercises: Regular pelvic floor exercises can improve pelvic floor muscle tone, which can reduce leaks.

  • Quit Smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of incontinence as the chemicals in tobacco irritate the lining of the bladder, and a chronic cough can put strain on the pelvic floor muscles.

    Choose the Right Exercises: High-impact activities like jogging and sit-ups can stress pelvic floor muscles and exacerbate leaks. Consider low-impact options such as Pilates, which strengthens core muscles and benefits stress incontinence, as well as these other sporting activities  with incontinence.
  • Be Cautious with Lifting: Lifting heavy objects can strain pelvic floor muscles. 
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can weaken pelvic floor muscles due to pressure from fatty tissue on the bladder. 
  • Constipation Techniques: Straining during bowel movements can weaken pelvic floor muscles and worsens urinary incontinence. Consult a specialist regarding bowel movement techniques.
  • Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol can aggravate the bladder, leading to incontinence symptoms. Reducing or eliminating consumption may provide relief.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink five to six glasses of water a day, unless otherwise advised by your healthcare professional. Limiting fluid intake can exacerbate incontinence and potentially lead to an irritated bladder from concentrated urine, an infection, or constipation.

Living with Incontinence in the UK

In conclusion, living with incontinence in the UK is common and should not be stigmatised. Sharing your experiences can lift the taboo surrounding incontinence and prove that you are not alone with it. Simple strategies like planning, monitoring your fluid intake, and identifying triggers can make a significant difference, and consulting your healthcare professional for further diagnosis and treatment. Seeking support from loved ones or online resources can provide valuable insights too.



What should you not do if you have incontinence?

Don’t ignore the issue. Consult your healthcare professional for diagnosis and guidance. Don't restrict fluids, as dehydration can worsen incontinence. Don't isolate yourself socially; stay active and engaged. Don't neglect treatment options or emotional well-being. Seek support if needed.

Can you live a normal life with incontinence?

Yes, with proper management, it's possible to live a normal life. Seek medical advice and make lifestyle adjustments. Explore incontinence products. Prioritise emotional well-being. Continue social activities and relationships.

How do you care for someone who is incontinent?

Maintain open communication. Assist with hygiene and changing incontinence products promptly. Ensure a proper supply of products. Support a balanced diet. Offer emotional support and seek professional help if needed.

How to stop incontinence?

To manage incontinence, it's important to consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice. Common approaches include pelvic floor exercises, bladder training, dietary modifications, and, in some cases, medications or surgical interventions. Regular medical consultation is key for effective treatment.