Imagine feeling afraid to laugh or hesitant to join that new exercise class with all of your friends.
For women with stress incontinence, or uncontrolled urination, these everyday activities can seem like a living nightmare. Some women are so embarrassed by this very common condition that they wait years to seek proper treatment. The good news is that stress incontinence is a minor condition that can usually be easily fixed.
Stacy Sellers, 43, an office manager for a local company, felt a constant sense of nervousness around other people when she began to have uncontrollable leakage. Even the littlest amount of pressure on her bladder would create an immediate leak of urine. It would happen all the time: when she sneezed, coughed, laughed or even moved a certain way.
“I suddenly had no control over my own body,” said Sellers. “I felt so humiliated that I kept what was going on a secret from everyone, including some of my close family members.”
Most frequently, a woman’s incontinence is caused by weakened pelvic muscles that support the bladder neck usually due to multiple pregnancies or constant straining.
Eventually, frustration led Seller’s, a resident of Camden, New Jersey, and mother of three, to break her silence. She sought help from her gynecologist who suggested that she try Kegel exercises to help strengthen her pelvic muscles. It worked for several weeks but eventually the leakage came back again, this time more frequently and much worse.
“When it first happened, I would just leak out one or two drops,” continues Sellers. “Now it felt like I was actually wetting myself. I had to start wearing panty liners which made me feel like a 40-year-old baby still wearing diapers.”
Finally, in January 2010, she was referred to Adam S. Holzberg, D.O., Co-Division Head of Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery at Cooper University Hospital.
“I constantly see patients like Stacy who suffer with stress incontinence much longer than they have to because they are too embarrassed to talk about it: or don’t know how common the condition really is for women,” said Dr. Holzberg. “There are several minimally invasive outpatient procedures that can fix the problem immediately.”
After an initial Urodynamic Test, which uses a catheter to fill the bladder with water and determine the severity of leakage, Dr. Holzberg scheduled Sellers for a sling operation.
A sling procedure uses a synthetic material or mesh to create a sling under the urethra to provide a backboard to help compress the urethra when performing certain activities that lead to straining. Simple things like a cough or a sneeze can lead to this leakage. This minimally invasive procedure uses three small incisions to place the sling in its proper position.
“It was such a simple procedure,” said Sellers. “I was in and out of the operating room in no time and Dr. Holzberg was very thorough in explaining everything to me beforehand. He made the experience as pain-free as possible.”
Within two to three days of the procedure, Sellers was fully recovered, had returned to work and was back to her normal everyday activities. Since then she hasn’t experienced any leakage and no longer feels embarrassed to join her friends or co-workers in social activities.
“My confidence right now is sky-high,” continues Sellers. “I am doing things now that I never thought I would have the opportunity to do again. I’m no longer afraid of going out to social events with my friends or family for fear of an accident, and that is a great feeling.”