Video: Do you need to squeeze when you sneeze?

Stress Urinary Incontinence can be seriously exacerbated during the hay fever season, causing embarrassment and self-esteem issues for those women affected, according to reality TV star Ferne McCann.

Vicki Williams talks about her experience
Vicki Williams talks about her experience

The allergy - affecting around 18 million people in the UK – has many summer sufferers starting to stock up on those “sneezing essentials”, such as antihistamines, nasal sprays and copious boxes of tissues.

But there’s one issue that is often ignored – despite affecting an estimated 30% of women worldwide and that’s Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) – brought on by the damaging of pelvic muscles during child birth.

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The Only Way Is Essex star, Ferne McCann, recently admitted that she had “wet herself” live on camera when she sneezed during an interview, later stating that her “pelvic floor muscles weren’t up to scratch”.

So, this spring, a new nationwide campaign will be reaching out to women who may be suffering in silence with SUI to help raise awareness of the treatment options available – whether specialist physio; surgery; or the increasingly popular ‘minimally invasive’ procedures.

The recent national poll of 2,000 women was commissioned as part of the #controlyourchoice initiative by Bulkamid®, a bladder bulking agent used to treat SUI, and uncovered some serious issues facing those afflicted with this condition.

Results showed that well over a third of women (39%) had waited up to six months before eventually seeking treatment, and 12% leaving it for up to five years or more.

Four in 10 (39%) women admitted they avoid certain activities such as bouncing on a trampoline with their children, wearing certain clothes, or attending an exercise class for fear of accidental bladder leakage. This rises to 52% of women aged 35-44.

Overall, around nine out of 10 women questioned agreed that women living with SUI are likely to simply “put up with” the condition, rather than seeking treatment and advice, despite any negative effects on their quality of life, relationships or ability to exercise.

Moreover, over a fifth (22%) said the final “tipping point” for seeking help was experiencing leakage whilst running for a bus, whilst 16% said it was the moment their partner pointed out a wet patch.

As the summer approaches, leading experts are now calling for women to speak to a healthcare professional about their problem as a priority.

Dr Helen Johnson, Consultant Urogynaecologist at Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust said: “As a healthcare professional, committed to helping women regain their confidence and quality of life following a diagnosis of stress urinary incontinence, I really do want to encourage women to take those first steps towards discussing their condition with a GP. There is really nothing to be frightened or embarrassed about and I feel some of the less invasive non-surgical treatments available should now be at the forefront of any discussions.