Urinary incontinence (UI), or the loss of bladder control, affects more than 25 million men and women in the United States, which means a significant number of us are managing UI in the workplace.
Extra trips to the bathroom, battling the urge to urinate, and urine leakage may occur at work and it can be difficult to be discreet about your UI when you’re around others for many hours at a time.
This is especially true for those of us who worked at home during the height of the pandemic, which, believe it or not, caused many people to actually develop UI, making it even more challenging to get back to a regular bathroom schedule at work.
If this sounds like you, use this post to learn how to manage your symptoms in the workplace with confidence.
Are You Managing Urinary Incontinence at Work?
Sometimes we may have UI symptoms that go unnoticed, and sometimes we simply don’t understand that our bladder control problems actually are symptoms of UI. There are a few different types of urinary incontinence that you can experience whether you’re a man or a woman.
- Stress urinary incontinence.
- Overactive bladder (OAB) or urge incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence.
- Functional incontinence.
- Mixed incontinence.
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- If you leak urine when coughing, sneezing, bending over, lifting heavy objects, or laughing, you may have stress urinary incontinence. Stress incontinence can develop due to a number of things, including:
- A weak urinary sphincter or weak pelvic floor muscles.
- Weak bladder muscles.
- Surgeries, such as a hysterectomy or prostate surgery.
- Nerve or lower back injuries.
- Hormonal changes in females, such as pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, or menstruation.
- Enlarged prostate in males.
- Pressure placed on the bladder or urethra, allowing urine leakage.
- Using the bathroom more than 8 times in a work day and feeling the frequent urge to pee may indicate OAB or urge incontinence. You may develop OAB due to:
- Nerve damage.
- Certain medications.
- Abdominal trauma.
- Bladder irritants (alcohol, tobacco, spicy foods, caffeine).
- Dribbling urine throughout the day may indicate overflow incontinence, as this means that your bladder is unable to empty fully during urination.
- If you have a disability or medical condition that causes you to leak urine due to not being able to make it to the bathroom on time, you may have functional incontinence. It’s referred to as functional because while your bladder and bowels may function correctly, you can still have leakage.
- Experiencing more than one symptom of any type of UI is known as mixed incontinence. For example, more than 50% of people with stress incontinence have urge incontinence, so you may feel the sudden urge to urinate and leak when exercising together.
Why Bladder Problems Can Be a Problem In the Workplace
Aeroflow Urology took a poll on social media and found that 50% of voters wished that their employers catered more to UI issues. And, when you are managing UI in the workplace, it can affect many parts of your job.
According to one study, 88% of employed women with severe UI symptoms said it impacted their:
- Ability to engage in physical activities.
- Ability to complete a task without stopping during to use the restroom.
This could be because certain aspects may make it more difficult to discreetly manage UI at your job or may trigger leaks.
You May Be Required to Engage In Physical Labor
Working while discreetly managing UI can be tough, especially if your job requires you to engage in physical activities, like heavy lifting, running, or bending over, which can all cause bladder leaks for those with stress incontinence.
You May Not Have Time for Bathroom Breaks
Using the restroom more than others sometimes comes with feelings of embarrassment. You may also be too busy to use the restroom, which can result in accidents or having to hold your urine, leading to urinary tract infections (UTIs).
You May Be Embarrassed to Discuss Your UI
We surveyed our audience asking if people with UI discussed it with their boss or coworkers. Only 12% said they did! It’s common for people to keep their bladder problems to themselves, not just in the workplace, but doing so may cause more problems for you.
8 Tips for Managing Incontinence at Work
Use these 8 tips to take the stress out of your work day with UI.
1. Know Your Rights
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) has a section that protects employees with bladder impairments. Read up on this document and know that you have rights in your workplace to cater to your incontinence.
The document lists rights you may have, such as:
- Job restructuring.
- Flexible scheduling.
- Remote working.
- Periodic rest breaks.
- Operating cranes for lifting.
- Ergonomic equipment.
- Modified break schedules.
2. Speak Up!
You should never be embarrassed about UI because it is very common all around the world and in the US. Plus, you can’t protect your rights under ADA if you aren’t open about your condition with your boss. Make work easier on yourself and let your superior know about your UI and what it means for you at work.
Ask your boss if they can make private time to meet so you can sit down and discuss it. It may also help to have a healthcare provider’s prescription for your UI so they understand your symptoms and diagnosis.
3. Wear Absorbent Products
If you experience loss of urine or strong urges to void your bladder that lead to wet underwear at work, you should be using bladder control products! Depending on the amount of urine you lose during the workday, different products may be right for you.
- For those with lighter leakage, products such as bladder control pads will work best. These types of pads are for men and women. These super-discreet products are absorbent and breathable for all-day office wear.
- If you have moderate leakage, adult protective underwear will be a better option. These protective underwear and made to look and feel like real underwear and are designed for both males and females. These are discreet enough to be worn in the office without anyone knowing!
- For those with heavier leaks, we recommend using adult briefs or overnight briefs. These products have tear-off side panels for easy and quick removal so you can be discreet about changing at work.
If you want to make your work day less stressful, use free bladder control products from Aeroflow Urology. We know that these supplies are essential to maintaining quality of life, especially in the workplace, which is why we help you get your products covered by your insurance!
If you qualify, we will:
- Send you free incontinence product samples so you can find the perfect product to wear during your work day.
- Navigate and complete all the confusing insurance paperwork for you, letting you know if you qualify for free products just days after you apply.
- Ask your healthcare provider for a prescription for incontinence on your behalf. (Pro tip: If you’d like to get your products faster, tell them we’ll be reaching out for a prescription!)
- Send your products on a monthly basis in discreet packaging.
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4. Pack Your Work Bag for Incontinence
Have you ever had an accident at work and gotten your clothes wet? Whether it’s because your store-bought bladder control products leaked through or because you weren’t wearing any, having wet clothes and trying to focus on work can be extremely uncomfortable. Make sure you you pack your work bag with everything you might need to manage accidents and UI symptoms, including:
- Extra bladder control products (pads, adult briefs, adult protective underwear).
- Extra underwear.
- Extra pants/skirts.
- Cleansing wipes.
- A trash bag or dry bag for soiled clothes.
- A reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
5. Think About Pelvic Floor Health
Yes, you can work out your pelvic floor muscles at work to help strengthen them and reduce UI symptoms. Dr. Bri’s Vibrant Pelvic Health recommends doing the following pelvic floor exercises at work to strengthen and relax your pelvic floor:
- Take deep breaths.
- Relax your butt and belly.
- Stand and sit with good posture and alignment.
- Change positions whether you’re standing or sitting.
- If you stand at work, do certain standing exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor.
- Use an ergonomic chair or exercise ball to sit tall on.
6. Stay Hydrated & Eat Right
While you may think “If I drink less water at work, I won’t need to go to the bathroom as much,” this is actually incorrect! Drinking less water makes your urine more concentrated which irritates your bladder and makes you pee more! Drink as much water as you need to throughout the day to stave off thirst and keep things functioning properly.
It may also be a good idea to avoid bladder irritating foods while at work. Things like spicy foods, caffeine, and tomato-based products can worsen UI symptoms. It’s important to eat a diet filled with a variety of healthy foods to avoid constipation which can also increase symptoms of UI.
7. Sit Near the Bathroom
If you have frequent voiding urges, speak with your manager or coworkers about sitting close to the restroom so you can get there quickly when needed.
8. See a Urologist
In order to get a prescription for incontinence, you will need to speak to a healthcare provider. A urologist is a great way to get insight into your unique incontinence needs and make a plan to decrease symptoms if possible.
Fultz, N., Girts, T., Kinchen, K., Nygaard, I., Pohl, G., & Sternfeld, B. (2005). Prevalence, management and impact of urinary incontinence in the workplace. Occupational Medicine, 55(7), 552–557. https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqi152
Nitti, V. W. (2001). The prevalence of urinary incontinence. Reviews in Urology, 3 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S2-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1476070/
Fitzgerald, S. T., Palmer, M. H., Kirkland, V. L., & Robinson, L. (2002). The Impact of Urinary Incontinence in Working Women: A Study in a Production Facility. Women & Health, 35(1), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1300/j013v35n01_01
Stress Incontinence: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22262-stress-incontinence
Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.