Kate Winslet Opens Up About Having Incontinence

It might be hard to believe, but even famous actresses can suffer from not-so-glamourous health conditions.

Actress Kate Winslet revealed on the U.K.’s The Graham Norton Show that she has stress incontinence, which causes accidental urine leakage when the body is under physical stress like coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects, or exercising.

“I can’t jump on trampolines anymore, I wet myself,” Winslet said. “It’s bloody awful, especially if you’re wearing a skirt.”

Winslet definitely isn’t alone. Anyone can suffer from the leaky-bladder condition, especially (as in her case) women who have given birth.

“When you’ve had a few children you know, it’s just what happens,” she said on the show. “It’s amazing, two sneezes, I’m fine. Three, it’s game over.”

Overall 25 million Americans have incontinence, and of those, 75% to 80% are women. Stress incontinence is not uncommon among women post-pregnancy, because muscles that support the bladder may get weaker after giving birth. Plus, new moms go through some major hormonal changes, which can affect the pelvic floor muscles. For some, the symptoms of stress incontinence start immediately after delivery and then improve, while others have symptoms that get worse with age.

RELATED: My Incontinence Started After I Gave Birth

Unfortunately, people shy away from this topic, since it’s viewed as embarrassing. But it shouldn’t be—which is why it’s great Winslet is bringing this issue into the spotlight.  The good news is, there are things that can help remedy the problem. Here are some steps you can take if you have stress incontinence.

Lose weightStaying fit and shedding pounds is an important way to lessen the severity of symptoms. If you are overweight, dropping pounds can help reduce pressure on your pressure on your bladder and pelvic muscles.

Train your bodyOne way to help restore control is through Kegel exercises, otherwise known as pelvic floor exercises, which involve flexing the same muscles you use to hold your pee. Squeeze those muscles for five seconds at a time, 10-15 times a day, and you should see an improvement. And if you want some help, there are a number of kegel-assisting products on the market designed to help you get the most out of your workout. But the jury is still out on whether such devices help, so it’s fine to keep it old-school and just do the exercises on your own. (Added benefit? Kegels are thought to increase the strength of orgasms, so it’s really a win-win.)

RELATED: 12 Myths and Facts About Incontinence

Adjust your dietWhen you have incontinence, certain beverages can make symptoms worse, like caffeine and alcohol. Both are diuretics, which can increase urine output, which can be a problem for people with incontinence.

RELATED: 10 Foods to Avoid If You Have an Overactive Bladder

Get a new gadgetThere are other products on the market meant to make living with incontinence easier. One device is a pessary, a soft silicone ring that’s inserted into the vagina (almost like a tampon) to lift and support the bladder. You can keep it in for a week at a time to help prevent leakage.

RELATED: 11 Drugs Used To Treat Incontinence

SurgeryIf your symptoms are severe, surgery can be an option. Many surgeries for incontinence, which include retropubic suspension and sling surgery, can have variable results and carry a risk of complications, so they’re generally recommended as a last resort. For a slightly less invasive option, you could try an outpatient procedure where bulking materials (collagen or silicone) are injected around the urethra to make the area thicker and able to control leakage. However, this type of treatment isn’t permanent. If successful, you’ll probably have to get additional injections every few months to a year.

RELATED: 15 Must-Know Facts About Incontinence Surgery

BiofeedbackIf you don’t love the idea of surgery or injections, consider seeing a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction. These aren’t your typical sports PTs, these specialists can guide you through Kegels, biofeedback, and behavioral techniques to help manage symptoms. You can also talk to your gynecologist for guidance and support for dealing with the condition. Some people with incontinence turn to acupuncture or hypnotherapy to restore balance and control of their bodies. Researchers have yet to confirm if either is a legitimate treatment, but since some women have shown improvement, they do believe there’s potential.



This App Might Help Treat Your Incontinence, Study Says

Do you pee a little when you laugh, or sneeze? It turns out there’s a good app for that.

Stress  develops when your urinary sphincter (which controls the release of urine) and your pelvic floor muscles (which support your bladder) become weak. In women, the most common cause is nerve and tissue damage from childbirth, which may lead to annoying leakage right away or years down the road.

If you’re struggling with the frustrating problem, you might want to check out Tät: A recent study found that the free Android app helped many women reduce the severity of their symptoms in three months’ time. 

Essentially, Tät is a training program for your pelvic floor. It guides you through progressively challenging exercises to build up strength; when you master one, you move on to the next. And for each exercise, graphics illustrate how long, and how intensely, you should contract your muscles. The app also offers lifestyle advice, and lets you set reminders so you stick to your regular “workouts.”

To find out whether Tät actually makes a difference, researchers from Umeå University in northern Sweden split 123 women with stress incontinence into two groups. One group used the app for three months. The other group, a control, received no treatment.

RELATED: 12 Natural Remedies for Incontinence

According to the authors, who published their findings in the journal Neurology and Urodynamics, Tät yielded “clinically relevant improvements.” At the end of the study period, participants in the app group had fewer leaks per week, used fewer pads, and reported better quality of life.

“Two thirds of the women using the app were satisfied with the treatment outcomes,” lead author Ina Asklund, PhD, told Health in an email. 

One of the aspects of Tät they appreciated most? Its accessibility. “Women experienced that the app was suitable for this kind of [pelvic floor] training since they carried their smartphones with them at all times, and the reminders helped and motivated them to perform their training regularly,” Asklund explained.

For women who’d prefer to manage their incontinence themselves, this is an option worth trying, she says: “There are many health apps, but very few are evaluated in research studies.”

Thinx's ‘Pee

Some 25 million Americans have urinary incontinence—and contrary to popular belief, the problem affects many young people too. Leaking can be brought on by , childbirth, even uterine fibroids. According to surveys by the National Association for Continence, one in four women over age 18 struggle with a leaky bladder.

There’s no question it can be a frustrating and embarrassing issue. But Thinx, the brand that brought us period-proof underwear, is hoping to end the stigma while offering up an alternative to panytliners and pads. The company’s spinoff, Icon—which features “pee-proof” undies—recently expanded its line to include more super-wicking styles meant to keep women dry all day long.

And these aren’t your grandma’s underwear. In addition to the classic hiphugger ($34) and high-waist ($36) styles, Icon has also has bikini ($32) and thong ($28) options. All of the panties can hold up to 6 teaspoons of liquid except the thong, which holds up to 3 teaspoons, according to the website.

RELATED: Gotta Go? 13 Reasons for Urine Trouble

Here’s hoping Icon can make incontinence a little less stressful, and a lot less taboo. As the company states on its site, “Icon is all about celebrating our strength as women, while chuckling at the ways our beautiful, imperfect, sexy, hilarious, resilient, leaky bodies can go rogue.”

As a bonus, every purchase gives back: A percentage of Icon’s profits go to The Fistula Foundation, an organization that provides treatment and surgery for women in developing countries with a fistula, or a hole, in their bladders.