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A woman (Rona Maynard) takes a selfie with her dog.

Women and Incontinence: You Don’t Have to Take It Anymore

A woman (Rona Maynard) takes a selfie with her dog.

Dressed for a dog walk with Casey

A good dog, a jaunty hat, a silk scarf that seems new because I found it at the bottom of the scarf bin. Shoes to stride in (take THAT, osteoarthritis!). No Maxi-pad. Let that sink in. If you are a woman who has had a vaginal birth, entered perimenopause or reached a certain age, we need to talk about the Maxi-pad. You don’t need to put up with this any longer. Take it from one who tossed her Maxis.

Last night a group of us time-tested women sat around a coffee table, noshing and telling the truth about aging in a female body. One of us has been sleeping on a towel for the past nine years, getting up to change it several times a night. If not for night sweats, she’d be running a company. Another woman mentioned bleed-throughs at work (hello, perimenopause). For the first time ever, I shared my own secret: wet pants.
Sometime around age 50, hiking lost its fizz. So did unexpected bursts of laughter, especially while walking. I’d have to cross my legs, knowing it was already too late, while the protégée beside me wondered what had come over her boss. While running errands one otherwise perfect afternoon, I had to duck into Nordstrom’s for a fresh pair of underpants, relieved that I happened to be steps away from dryness.
I thought I would bear this shame forever. I never mentioned it to anyone. As indignities of aging go, it’s far from the worst. I still had all my teeth and my marbles. No cancer, heart disease or Parkinson’s. What did I have to complain about?
Well into my 60s, I sat down with a new family doctor, a straight-talking woman young enough to be daughter. She asked a great many questions. By the time she inquired about “incontinence,” it seemed no more embarrassing than osteoporosis. Yes, I said.
My recently retired former doctor—crusty and male, a brilliant diagnostician with no interest in the body’s small acts of rebellion—would have told me that aging sucks. The new doctor sent me to a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Patients of hers had seen marked improvement after a short course of treatment. She didn’t say, “This will change your life.” But I am here to tell you that it did.
So what happens in pelvic floor physiotherapy? I could go to town with a description but Casey is waiting for his walk and one day I might want to place the whole story in a real publication with an editor, a lineup and fees for contributors. For now, I’ll just tell you it’s a little like using a sex toy, but with sets, reps and a trainer. I did four or five sessions, with homework in between. That was at least half a dozen years ago, and I haven’t needed a refresher.
Some things get worse with age. They dig in. You have to manage them. Incontinence is not that kind of problem. Take a walk with me—or better yet, a hike. Make me laugh. My shame is history now. Yours can be too.
Got a story to share? I’m listening. #incontinence #womenshealth #aging


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About Me

I’m an author and keynote speaker who found happiness at 65—a story I tell in my new memoir Starter Dog: My Path to Joy, Belonging and Loving This World. In a former life as Editor of Chatelaine, Canada’s premier magazine, I disclosed my struggle with depression and helped kickstart a national conversation about mental health. I’ve been married more than 50 years and am a firm believer that road trips go better with a dog in the back seat. I’ve learned plenty about staying well from people with diplomas on their walls but my best mental health coach is a rescue dog named Casey.

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