Over 33 million Americans, including nearly 18 million cis women, experience some sort of incontinence or bladder problem. Bladder leakage is twice as likely to be diagnosed in people with vulvas as it is in people with penises, thanks in part to hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle, reproduction, and menopause, which impact that urinary tract and pelvic floor muscles.
The two most common types of urinary incontinence in people with vulvas are stress incontinence and urge incontinence. The former occurs when there’s stress or pressure on the bladder. It can accompany activities like sneezing, laughing, coughing, sex, or exercise. Urge incontinence, on the other hand, happens when there’s a strong, sudden urge to urinate and there isn’t time to get to the bathroom. Many people have both types, called “mixed” incontinence.
Beyond the physical inconvenience of wet spots popping up, bladder leakage may contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and poor body image. People experiencing incontinence might withdraw from friends, activities, and outings for fear of leaking in public. This isn’t surprising given the shame our society places on bodily fluids. But it does make it hard to feel like the sexy, powerful person you are!
The physical and mental health impacts of bladder leakage can make feeling sexy and enjoying sex a challenge. But they don’t have to mean the end of your sex life. Here’s how.
12 ways to feel sexy with light bladder leakage
1. Talk about it
Shame only survives with silence. With the stats above, it’s likely at least one of your friends also pees a little when they laugh. You aren’t alone.
2. Seek out resources
Many people find that knowing more about their disease helps them contextualize and ultimately accept it. If that sounds like you, start researching. Here are two great resources to get you started:
3. Emotional support
Seek out a therapist or support group to help navigate your feelings and experiences with bladder leakage, especially if you are heaping blame upon and judging yourself for “making a big deal out of nothing.”
There’s an online community for everything these days! Look for the incontinence community and let them prop you up. Fill your social media feeds with those who are feelin’ themselves in spite of their bladder leakage.
5. Get the right tools
Use pads designed specifically for bladder leakage
6. Take precautions before and during sex
Worried about peeing during sex? There are a few things you can do. First, avoid drinking a lot of fluids, especially those with caffeine or alcohol, before sex. Secondly, pee right before getting it on. Lastly, use a waterproof layer. You could go with puppy pads but if you really want to feel sexy check out this sexy waterproof blanket. One side is satin, the other is microfiber, and in-between is a waterproof layer that keeps your bed, furniture, floor, WHATEVER! dry. Best of all? It’s machine washable and lasts a long time even if you happen to use laundromat machines.
7. Get it on in the shower
Don’t want to risk getting pee on anyone? Move your sexy times to the shower. For best results, use this as an excuse to finally upgrade to that waterfall shower head you’ve been eyeing. Oh and don’t forget to use silicone lube to ensure no one gets irritated down there.
8. Work with a pelvic floor physical therapist
The right treatment can help manage and/or heal many cases of light bladder leakage (LBL). Ask your ob-gyn, primary care practitioner, or urologist for a referral to pelvic floor physical therapy. There are so many treatment options out there, from lifestyle changes to Kegels to surgery, and a pelvic floor PT will help determine what will benefit you most.
9. Choose sex positions that decrease the likelihood of peeing
Avoid positions that put extra pressure on your bladder or urethra. Try missionary with your pelvis and hips propped up. You can use a couple of pillows from around the house or try out a sex pillow like this or this. They’re firmer and have waterproof, machine-washable covers. Using pillows and props also allow you to explore new positions and angles that can be OMG amazing.
10. Talk with your partner or love about their reactions
In this sex-negative soup called our society, we’ve been raised to believe that bodily fluids are gross. If your partner(s) reacts in ways that are less than supportive, talk to them about it. And maybe consider seeking out couples counseling.
11. Focus on what you love about yourself
Light bladder leakage is only one part of who you are—as a person, partner, and lover. While it can be overwhelming, it doesn’t define you and it doesn’t deplete your innate worth and sexiness. Try this: strip down in front of a mirror and focus on all the parts of yourself you love. At first, this might be really challenging. That’s ok. Do it every day for a week, a month, a year! When negative thoughts pop up, thank them and send them packing a la, “thank you, you aren’t needed right now because what I love is…” In a relationship? Ask your partner to make a list of what they find sexy about you and tell you regularly.
12. Light bladder leakage doesn’t have to mean the end of an intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex life
There are so many things you can do to address the leakage, change your mindset, and find freedom in pleasure.
Featured image by Eylül Aslan
Looking for ways to manage urinary incontinence? Cora’s Bladder Liners were designed by women in the know, and made to eliminate the anxiety and fear that goes along with experiencing light bladder leaks.