continence & incontinence

page updated: 26-Apr-2005

I don’t remember having any real continence issues while I was growing up. I can recall a few incidences of bed wetting, but I don’t know if that is really incontinence or if bed wetting is sort of its own issue. My sister was a very deep sleeper as a little person (to the point of it being kind of funny) and consequently it took her a little while to gain control of nighttime peeing, but it worked out fine, as far as I know. No, ok, I do know that it was fine and I shouldn’t tease my sister here because I won’t even tell her the address of the site and she can’t fight back.

Anyway, I do remember wetting my pants in grade one (managed to blame it on the boy in the desk behind me -- how?), and on the way home from grade one (different day). Those are kind of random things to be writing, but that is what I know. I’ve only had one urinary emergency as an adult, during a road trip where I just really had to pee and didn’t get to for a long time. I ended up making it most of the way to the campsite toilets and being forced to give up and pee on the ground, within site of the toilets. It was funny.

I haven’t ever suffered from the stress kind of incontinence, as in losing bladder control due to laughing or sneezing. Perhaps I just haven’t had the chance yet. I do make an effort to maintain strong pelvic floor muscles (pubococco whatever... never quite manage to commit that to memory despite it being fun to say).

From my public health education, good ways to strengthen these muscles and promote bladder control are: practising squeezing the muscles (Kegel exercise style), trying to put off peeing as long as possible (or just a little longer than usual) and making a definite stop to your peeing instead of just kind of petering out (standing really encourages this). It is less advisable to stop and start in the middle of peeing (I know a lot of guys who do this, supposedly to exercise their prostate muscles and become powerful ejaculators), because this trains your body to stop peeing before the bladder is completely empty. Bad habit.

I occasionally suffer from this kind of reverse incontinence, where I am unable to pee, or where I am really slow to start. Mainly this occurs in novel situations such as in the company of others, or if trying to pee while swimming in a lake. I think this mostly has to do with being quite conditioned to peeing in toilets. Because really, I don’t think I quite have conscious control of the muscle actions that make me start peeing. I’m fully in control of stopping, but I couldn’t tell you what I do to start. I just kind of decide to pee and then wait until I do. In some situations it just doesn’t start.

I can remember once trying to pee while snorkling in the ocean and being unable, even when floating as if seating on a toilet. It was obnoxious too, because I had to pee too much to get into the boat to go home. It worked out in the end, but it was painful before I managed.

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