Talking About Incontinence – Who Needs To Know?

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This post was made in partnership with DependĀ® brand. All opinions are my own.

A doctor and patient talking with their hands on a white tableManaging incontinence can be a bit of a balancing act. You are always monitoring your physical health while doing your best to keep your emotional health in check. And as with everything else in life, you have to decide how much of your challenge you want to share with others and how much to keep to yourself. 

It can be embarrassing, dealing with this condition, and although it is extremely common (with 1 in 4 Americans struggling with bladder leakage), almost no one talks about it.  

Which brings us to a question that those of us managing incontinence have to answer on an almost daily basis. Who do you have to talk to about your bladder leakage? Does everyone need to know? Here are some things to consider when deciding who you need to tell, based on my own experience. 

Do Medical Professionals Need To Know? 

Your medical professionals are there to keep you as healthy as possible. If they don’t have all of the information, they can’t do their job sufficiently. 

In a relationship between you and your doctors, I recommend you being as transparent as possible. It is an embarrassing subject to talk about, but they can’t help you if they don’t know what’s wrong. And being doctors, they likely see several patients with incontinence daily. 

Different doctors will need different levels of candor from you. Your podiatrist likely doesn’t need the details that your primary care physician will, so gauge your responses from your own comfort level. 

Does Your Spouse/Partner Need To Know?

When you are in a serious romantic relationship with another person, it is important that they are aware of your medical issues. If you are a couple, your job is to help take care of each other during your best and worst times. Just like your doctor, they need to know any pertinent medical information that they may need to share in an emergency. 

Unlike your doctor, you can decide what details you are comfortable sharing with your partner. In general, it is important that they know that you are managing incontinence. Do they need to know all of the details? Probably not. That decision should be based on your specific relationship with the other person. 

It can be a bit of an extra challenge to share this information with a partner because of your intimate relationship. You know each other in a different way than anyone else in your life, and incontinence is something that can make you insecure and unsure.

If you are managing your leakage well, there is no reason to discuss it often. It can be one of your many diagnoses that they are aware of (diabetes, incontinence, hypothyroid), and nothing more.

Do Your Friends And Family Need To Know? 

Do your friends and family need to know? No, absolutely not. Can it benefit you if some of them do know? Yes, absolutely. 

Your friends and family are your support system. If you have a particularly close relationship with a friend or family member, there’s nothing wrong with sharing the information about your incontinence. Many, many people have their own stories of bladder leakage and will likely share them with you if you bring it up. 

With this being an incredibly common condition, you can assume that many of your friends and family members have dealt with or are currently dealing with incontinence – they just might not be talking about it. People who have delivered babies, dealt with prostate cancer, are aging, have diabetes, have had pelvic floor challenges, and others all have the potential to be managing bladder leakage. It isn’t just you. 

Managing incontinence can feel very lonely, so it may be a gift to yourself to talk to a friend about it. Allow them to be a confidante and you may find that they’ve been hoping for the exact same discussion. 

Do Your Kids Need To Know?

Your kids do not need to know that you manage bladder leakage. Your personal life should remain your personal life. That said, there are some things to think about when it comes to your kids. 

Part of the struggle that so many of us have surrounding incontinence is that there is a stigma attached. We’re embarrassed and hidden about it because it has not been normalized. What if sharing just a little bit about your medical issues with your children helps normalize it for future generations? 

If you use protection like Depend Silhouette Underwear and keep them in your bathroom, it is possible your children will see them and ask questions. There is nothing wrong with answering those questions in an age-appropriate way, making sure to be confident in those answers. You use them to manage a condition called incontinence. They allow you to live your life in the most healthy way possible and it’s something your doctor knows about. 

Allowing your child to know that you’re fine with it, it’s a medical condition, and your life is as healthy as possible is enough to help them have confidence about it as well. 

Who Else Needs To Know?

There are very few other people in your life who need to know about your incontinence, if any at all. This is the same as any other medical condition, and people don’t need to know about your high blood pressure or irritable bowel disorder either unless you want to tell them. 

That said, telling other people is something to consider on rare occasions. If you need to be able to access the bathroom multiple times at work, it may be important that you share a bit with your supervisor. They shouldn’t need any details, but you may have to generally explain your need to access the bathroom. If they require a doctor’s note, do your best to get one. This is a medical challenge that you are managing, not a luxury. 

Incontinence can be embarrassing and uncomfortable to talk about, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It is far more frequent than you think, and many people understand. 

Whether you decide to tell people in your life about any of your health struggles is completely up to you. Just make sure that the people who need to know (your doctors and your partner) have some insight so that your life can be as full and as rich as possible. 

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