Talking To Your Mom About Incontinence

Jasmine Schmidt Health Guide
  • Have you seen the commercial with women saying they didn’t realize cervical cancer could be caused by a virus? There is a montage of women of all ages asking everyone to “tell someone;” tell your mother, tell your daughter, tell your wife. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, it’s a reminder for all of us to “tell someone” about incontinence. And with women twice as likely to experience incontinence then men, it’s certainly a condition worth mentioning to the women in our lives this Mother’s Day.
    There’s a good chance that a woman in your life is living silently with incontinence, and it may indeed be your own mother. If she hasn’t told you, it’s probably due to one or more of a few possible reasons. She may feel embarrassed bringing up the topic. The leaking may have become worse with time; often those with incontinence don’t realize how impactful the condition has become until they finally talk to others about it. (A recent study has shown that depression is more prevalent among women with urinary incontinence).

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    Or she may have been suffering for years, always making up excuses for why she can’t go to certain events, when the reality is that the fear of being wet in public has kept her closed off from society. These situations can and do happen in the lives of millions of women, and frequently their closest family members have no idea. Individuals with incontinence become masters of disguise.

    So how exactly does one bring up incontinence? Shouting out, “So mom, have you been leaking urine lately?” over the dining room table, followed by, “and can you please pass the gravy,” may not be the best method of approaching this delicate topic.


    It’s best to approach her in a discrete and comfortable setting. Try not to put her on the spot by asking outright if she has been experiencing incontinence; remember, if she hasn’t told you yet, there’s a reason. Instead, try broaching the topic of overall health and wellness.


    Tell mom how much you care for her, and that you hope she’s getting regular physicals. It’s important that she doesn’t hold back from telling her doctor important things like changes in bowel habits (which can be a sign of colon cancer), or if she’s experiencing leakage of urine, which, while seldom medically dangerous, can certainly be lifestyle-threatening. End by simply reassuring mom that you want her to live a full and active life.

    If just thinking about this discussion makes you blush, you may want to consider alternatives to a face-to-face meeting. Try sending a letter or card. If the woman in your life does email, send her an e-card from a site like or Just type out a couple sentences in the card telling her you care about her and that you hope she’s taking time to care for herself by having regular check-ups and honest conversations with her doctor.


    If you do raise the subject of incontinence, refer her to The Simon Foundation or this Web site,, for more information. Or you can simply print this article and slip it in her hand as you’re saying goodbye after Mother’s Day brunch. Whatever you do, however you do it, just tell someone. Happy Mother’s Day!

  • Have you talked to your loved ones about incontinence? Share your story as a SharePost.

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    Also check out Dr. Sobol's SharePosts on communicating about incontinence:


    Talking about Incontinence with Your Doctor


    "I Have a Broken Bladder": How to Start a Conversation About Incontinence

Published On: May 09, 2006