Standing up in front of a classroom teaching all day can make anyone need to urinate. For teachers with urinary incontinence, however, waiting for the end of the day, or even a scheduled break between classes, may not be sufficient to prevent embarrassment.
In an Occupational Medicine study on incontinence in the workplace generally, 88% of employed women experiencing the greatest severity of urinary incontinence symptoms reported a subsequent negative impact on their ability to concentrate, perform physical activities and complete tasks uninterruptedly. They also reported a reduction in self-confidence associated with their symptoms. While this speaks to the larger set of female workers, its observations and lessons would seem to apply to most teachers with urinary incontinence almost certainly.
How is a teacher with urinary incontinence supposed to excel at her work? Lucky for her, there are several tips and tricks for dealing with urinary incontinence and bladder leakage at work, and here you’ll find the top 10. Some are strategies for preventing or minimizing the urge to urinate; others are ways to manage that urge when it arises.
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Tips for Teachers With Urinary Incontinence
1. Cut Out the Coffee
You may think you need coffee to wake up and stay awake to teach, but coffee is also dehydrating, promoting urination, and can irritate the bladder, intensifying the urge to urinate. Carbonated drinks, even those without caffeine, can have the same effects on some people.
2. Program Your Body
Unless you have a teaching assistant you can ask to take over while you go and take care of a sudden need, most times, you’ll probably need to wait until the end of class to use the bathroom. Start training your bladder to focus on its need to urinate around those times. You do this by trying to use the bathroom during these times, whether you feel like you need to urinate or not, and, while class is in session, by doing your best to hold it in and avoid taking a spontaneous bathroom break during class.
You can also try to hold out urinating for a few minutes even when you know you’re free to let it flow. This, along with the practice above, can help you extend the length of time you can hold it.
3. Adjust Your Schedule
If your daily school schedule is such that you can’t reasonably use the bathroom between classes, see if you and your supervisor could work out a different schedule that does.
4. Dress for Wetness
If you do end up having a small leak, wearing dark-colored clothing will help obscure it when you’re meeting with clients–or the boss–giving a presentation or chatting at the water cooler. You can also hide visible leakage with a cardigan or jacket tied around your waist; keep one with you for when you’re in a pinch. And, one item of clothing never to be without if you have urinary incontinence: a spare pair of underwear.
5. Moderate Your Water Intake
While you do need to drink enough water throughout the day to remain hydrated and healthy, you don’t need to overdo it–especially during the workday. Don’t drink water just because you think you’re supposed to; drink it when you’re thirsty.
And, when you drink water, drink it slowly, avoiding gulping it down. This helps you absorb more of the water you take in and, therefore, reduces the amount you need to eliminate through your urine.
To help reduce the amount you drink when you get thirsty, chew some sugar-free gum or suck on some hard candy to stimulate the release of saliva instead.
6. Eat Right for Incontinence Prevention
There are several dietary choices that can help you reduce the need to urinate. One is to eat some whole grains during your lunch break. When the bowels aren’t functioning properly, it can place pressure on the bladder causing you to urinate more. By eating more dietary fiber–like cereals, pasta, whole grain bread and brown rice–you can improve your bowel health and, in turn, reduce bladder symptoms.
Avoid too many sugary desserts as they can promote the kind of bacteria that causes urinary tract infections.
7. Hold It in Right
You can hold in your urine for longer than you think if you do it right. Anytime you’re afraid you won’t get to the toilet in time, try the “Freeze and Squeeze” method:
- Sit down, if you can; otherwise, stand still.
- Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles between three and five times.
- Breathe deeply and slowly.
- Focus your mind on your breathing and thoughts of preventing a leak.
8. Do Your Kegels
Practicing Kegel exercises can help you develop greater skills in holding your urine and preventing leakage. To perform Kegel exercises, lie down and squeeze your pelvic muscles as though you were attempting to stop the flow of urine. Hold that position for three seconds, and then release it. Work slowly up to three sets of 10 Kegels. The best part about these exercises is you can do them sitting up, too–like at your desk–without even your students noticing.
9. Explore Prescription Medication
If you feel like you’re at your wit’s end with your urinary incontinence at school, your doctor may be willing to prescribe certain medicines that relax the bladder muscles and keep them from spasming.
10. Purchase Incontinence Products for Women
Many women find it helpful to wear absorbent undergarments or pads made specifically for urinary incontinence. Sofia & Grace offers a wide variety of bladder control products, from pads to pantiliners to protective underwear in a range of brands, styles and absorbances, both in reusable and disposable varieties.
Manage Your Urinary Incontinence While in Front of the Classroom
Urinary incontinence is a common problem among women and one that can be particularly burdensome to manage when you’re performing work standing in front of people all day as teachers do. But if you just put some of these suggestions into effect, you’ll soon be able to put urinary incontinence out of your mind and get on with the more important and noble task of educating young minds.