Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I explain what can happen to your bladder during menopause.
There are many physical changes that go on in our body during the menopause. And one of the common ones is that our bladder can be affected. So, let's have a look at what can happen to the bladder, what you can experience, and tips that can help you with this.
What happens to your bladder during menopause?
During menopause falling oestrogen can have a big effect on the structure of our bladder. Our bladder can weaken. The bladder valve can weaken and the bladder wall can also get thinner and more sensitive. Together with age, which also causes bladder to become weaker, it is no wonder that the bladder can be impacted at this time, causing many women to experience bladder problems.
Other menopause symptoms and conditions can affect the bladder as well, so it's not just necessarily low oestrogen and age.
So, some of the other common issues that can affect our bladder is that our pelvic floor muscles can become weaker. Our pelvic floor muscles are almost like a sling underneath our hip bone and they hold up the bladder, the bowel, the vagina, and the uterus. And if these muscles weaken, then that can cause a slight shift in the position of the bladder and that can affect how often and the way that you go to the toilet.
If the pelvic floor muscles become really weak, then the organs in this whole area can shift sometimes quite dramatically, and that can squash the bladder, making it hold less urine at any given time.
The other thing that can happen is that because our bladder becomes more sensitive and thinner, we can become much more vulnerable to repeat cystitis and other urinary tract infections.
And if we also link that to a reduction of friendly bacteria in the vagina, during menopause, which can also cause recurrent UTIs, again, this can make bladder issues even more common during menopause.
The other thing that can happen here is that our bladder can become inflamed. And what happens here is our urine can become more acidic and that will end up just irritating the bladder.
So very often, what happens here is you get symptoms that are identical to ones that you get with cystitis. So, you go to the doctor, you get urine sample tested, and it comes back saying there's no infection. But you are getting exactly the same burning, the same discomfort, the same need to run to the toilet on a regular basis. And very often, this is just due to inflammation rather than anything else.
It could also be weight gain. If we are carrying that little bit of extra weight, that can put pressure on our bladder.
And the other thing, which not many people realise, is that constipation can be a big factor here. If your bowel is overly full and you haven't been, maybe for a day or two, the amount of matter that's sitting in your bowel can put extra pressure on your bladder, again, reducing the amount of urine it can hold, and you just end up wanting to go to the toilet a lot more often.
Signs of bladder problems to look out for:
There are signs that you get when there may be issues with your bladder. So, as well as maybe getting repeat infections, you can get something called stress incontinence. This just basically means that you leak a little bit, especially if you laugh, especially if you do exercises, running, or maybe even getting up quickly or going up and down the stairs.
You can get sudden urges. You can be absolutely fine one minute and the next minute, you are so desperate to go to the toilet. And if this continues, then you can end up losing control before you get to the toilet. And this is sometimes where a lot of women going through the menopause need to wear these slim incontinence pads, just to avoid any accidents before you get to the toilet.
You can find that you just go more often. You're drinking the same, you're not doing anything else different, but you're needing to go twice as often. Or the other thing that can happen is that you end up having to get up three or four times during the night.
For some women, they can start to experience more pain or discomfort when they go to the toilet. And others too can become far more sensitive to soaps and shower gel, and sometimes that can nip and that can very often indicate that things are not quite going well with the bladder.
Tips to help support your bladder during menopause
So, what can you do to help your bladder?
One really important thing, and please bear this in mind, if you are passing blood when you're going to the toilet, this needs medical attention so please do contact your doctor or your local surgery if this is happening because this is something that really does need some attention.
Drink plenty of water
One of the most important things for your bladder is water, so don't reduce your water. It seems logical if we think about it. If we're running to the toilet twice as often, if we're getting up twice as often during the night, then it seems logical that if we reduce our water intake that we will go less often. But the opposite happens.
Remember, our bladder can become more sensitive. So, if you end up dehydrated, your urine is going to be very acidic, it's going to be very concentrated, and that is going to irritate the bladder further. And this can become a real vicious cycle. A good indication that you're not drinking enough is if you get a sudden urge to go to the toilet, if you feel that you really need to go, and when you go, you just pass a little dribble of urine.
That normally means that your bladder is just over sensitive and is really irritated. So the trick here is to drink plenty of plain water during the day and before you go to bed at night, have a little shot glass of warm water, which very often, is just enough to stop some of those night-time trips, without filling your bladder so full that you need to get up more often.
Limit your intake of certain drinks
Caffeine, alcohol, fizzy drinks, sugary drinks, including fruit juices should be limited. These can be very acidic and these will just irritate your bladder further. So the most important drink for this situation is loads and loads of plain water and that can work really quickly.
I know because my bladder complains very quickly if I don't drink enough water.
Eat plenty of fibre
This is especially important if your bowels are not working particularly well. Just make sure that you're getting enough fibre in your diet and avoid the constipation.
Look at doing pelvic floor exercises
These can help to strengthen the pelvic girdle muscles. If you're really having issues with the bladder, sometimes seeking the advice of an experienced Pilates instructor can be absolutely great because they can show you very specific exercises that can strengthen the whole pelvic area so it's certainly worth looking into.
Try this even as a preventative measure, as you approach the menopause, just to make sure that you keep your bladder and your whole pelvic girdle nice, and strong, and healthy.
Helpful herbs and supplements
You can look at several of our products. If you get cystitis, if it's been diagnosed, we've got our licensed product, Uva-ursi & Echinacea Cystitis oral drops.
We also have a lovely product called Cranberry Complex, which can be very helpful if you're getting all the inflammation and irritation but there's no infection present.
Don't hold back when you need the toilet
If you need to go, go if you can. Again, if your urine is a little bit acidic and you hold on to it and hold on to it, it's going to keep irritating your bladder. So, it really is important that when you feel the need to go, you try and get to the toilet as quickly as you can.
Take your time in the toilet
When you are so busy, you may end up trying to force their bladder when they're urinating. And again, that can cause a lot of discomfort so take your time and let things flow naturally as they say.
Also, make sure that when you've been to the toilet that you clean yourself properly in the right way, from front to back, to make sure that infection or any bad bacteria are not forced back up into the bladder.
Urinate after sex
For those of you who still have an active sex life, if your bladder is a little bit weak, it's really important to go after sex, just to make sure that you keep everything as clean as possible.
What you wear can have an impact
And the last thing but not least is to make sure you get plenty of air into the whole area, so things like wearing cotton underwear. Don't have too tight clothes on. I know in the winter it could be a little bit hard, especially if you live in cold climate. But it's very important to allow the air to circulate in that area.
Try a vaginal probiotic
The other thing too is if you're already suffering from things like vaginal dryness or an irritated vagina, that can be linked to bladder infections because of the level of friendly bacteria, so you may find that taking a specific vaginal probiotic can make a lot of difference, too.
So, I hope you found this one helpful. Again, if you have tips that you have found have worked really well to help you with any bladder issues, then please share them because we would love to hear all about them.
Key points to take away from this blog:
- Bladder problems are very common during menopause, as fluctuating hormones and age can both impact the bladder at this time
- Other menopause symptoms and conditions can all put extra pressure on the bladder
- There are many signs that can indicate bladder problems, including sudden urges to urinate and needing to urinate during the night
- Drinking more water and less irritating drinks such as caffeine is important
- Toilet habits such as not rushing and cleaning carefully can also help.
Until next week, take care.