I am fascinated by the medical show Embarrassing Bodies. It focuses on de-stigmatising common complaints which many people would rather ignore than dare go to their GP about.
From skin tags on bottoms to excess skin around the privates, nothing is taboo on the Channel 4 show. Some of the people who felt they had an “embarrassing body” had put up with their condition for years, and it stopped them living full and happy lives.
So many times I would shout from my sofa: “Oh my God, how could you have let that get so bad? Why didn’t you just go the doctor?” In most cases, the prognosis was: “This is nothing to be embarrassed or worried about; it’s quite normal.”
So why do we have so many hang-ups about our bodies and why don’t we do anything about them? We actually treat our cars better than ourselves.
If your motor was leaking, a bit sluggish or had a slow puncture, you wouldn’t just hope the problem would go away. You’d take it to the garage before the matter got worse.
So why do we allow health issues to fester, and live in pain, fear or embarrassment?
I grew up in a culture where talking about anything relating to your physical self was taboo – puberty, periods, sex, childbirth, menopause… I never heard my mum ever mention hot flushes or pelvic floor exercises.
Thankfully, my generation likes to share and, especially with social media, talking about our bodies openly has empowered people and helped them to not suffer in silence.
But even in 2021 there are some bodily functions that are still not easy to admit to.
Like incontinence. I can feel my cheeks burning as I own up to the fact that I’m one of those women who has to cross their legs when they sneeze. I daren’t join my kids on the trampoline, and if I laugh too hard, well…
So have I been to the doctor? Of course not. I’ve always thought it’s just part of the ageing process and I’d have to live with it.
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But just by chance I got talking to a mum whose son plays in the same football team as my son. When she told me she specialised in pelvic floor rehabilitation, I nearly wet myself. She said the NHS estimates that as many as six million people may experience urinary incontinence in some form.
The condition affects men and women, young and old. Pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the onset of the menopause, are all factors that contribute.
When I told her I’d lived with the problem for a few years, she said up to 40% of women suffer at some point and studies have found they often take up to 10 years to seek help. But she said treatments have undergone a revolution, and there was plenty of help available.
So, I’m off to see my GP. If only I’d sought medical help earlier, I could have been home and dry years ago…