22/08/2012 19:08 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Pregnancy Doesn't Have To Ruin Your Pelvic Floor

Pregnancy doesn't have to ruin your pelvic floor Rex

Anyone who has seen the TV adverts for Tena Lights could be forgiven for thinking that the world is full of 30-something women who just can't stop weeing themselves in public.

There's the woman who gets her skirt trapped in the lift doors - ooops! - before giggling in front of a symbolically bubbling water fountain.

Another ad features a group of Sex and the City style girlfriends having lunch. One of the women flirts with the waiter without realising that she has food in her teeth, before walking smack in to the door - ooops!

In both scenarios, the young, glamorous women are mortified that they've made themselves look silly in front of a passing hunk, but they're not in the least bit worried that they're peeing their pants - ooops! Now there's a problem that Carrie Bradshaw and friends never had to deal with.

And then there are the magazine ads aimed at women who work out - making us all a little bit wary of the ladies who take towels into the gym and wipe down the machines when they've finished.


For the last few months it feels as if daytime television has been flooded (sorry) with these ads, but I worry they are sending out a damaging message that urinary incontinence is nothing more than an embarrassing fact of life for women, when that really isn't - or shouldn't be - the case.


And while stress incontinence, to use the correct medical terminology, is nothing to be ashamed of - many women experience it towards the end of pregnancy or just after giving birth - it's nothing to brag about, either.

It doesn't matter how many times Tena tries to compare it to accidentally flashing your bra while stowing your luggage in an overhead locker, getting your dress trapped in an escalator or leaving the price tag in your dress, surely none are as mortifying as wetting yourself in public.

But according to Tena, more than half of women - including some as young as 18 - are already learning to make light of this distressing condition.

Really? Admittedly, it's not a subject that we're likely to chat about openly. But you've got to wonder if this is just the latest example of a company trying to make us feel so paranoid about our bodily functions and shortcomings that we race out to buy their product just to make ourselves feel better - and Tena towels and liners don't come cheap.

Before the new ads (at least one of which, incidentally, is written and directed by men) were shown, Charlotte Gorringe-Serrano, who is the marketing manager for Tena Lights, said: "We want to dispel the notion that occasional light bladder weakness is something to be embarrassed about. Oooops moments happen to everyone, so we've decided to tell the world about them with our new 'One less oooops to worry about' campaign! Light bladder weakness can be discretely and easily managed with Lights by Tena, - leaving you with one less oooops to worry about."

The Tena Lights website explains: "Lipstick on your teeth. A ladder in your tights. A little leak when you burst out laughing. We all have our ooops moments. And here's where we can help."

It continues: "You'd be surprised by the number of women who know what it's like when a bit of wee comes out unexpectedly. After all, it doesn't take much to make it happen. You might be surprised - and certainly reassured - to know that more than 1 in 2 women aged 18-55 have experienced light bladder weakness at some point. Around 62 of young women experiencing it playing sport."

So it's interesting that GP Dr Ellie Cannon says it's nowhere near as common as Tena makes out.

She told Parentish: "Stress incontinence (SI) affects only 20 per cent of women over the age of 40. It usually happens when the pelvic floor, which essentially is the stopper for the bladder, has been stretched. Once it's stretched the stopper doesn't work as well, but pelvic floor exercises can prevent SI - and treat it. It's certainly more common after pregnancy but it's not a definite consequence, although the risk is increased with more pregnancies and bigger babies. Many women get it for two-to-three months after birth, but not forever! If you're affected, don't suffer in silence - make an appointment to see your GP."

You also have to wonder why Tena have splashed out on saturation coverage for the Tena Lady range, when they keep so quiet about their Tena Men products.

Could it be because no one would expect a man in his prime to wear an incontinence pad just in case he does a little wee when he's in an all-important business meeting?

After all, if he's having trouble holding it in, surely he'd be better off visiting his doctor and getting the proper treatment instead of just putting up with - let alone laughing about - it?

In fact, it isn't until you try to imagine how an equivalent TV advertising campaign for Tena Man might look, that you realise everything that's wrong with the adverts for Tena Lights.


These adverts are, effectively, sending out a message that us silly women can't even control our bodily functions, but we don't even care because it's just so funny. Not to mention teaching men to assume that the women in their lives are probably doing an accidental wee every time they laugh, cough, jump or sneeze.


And they're also making women worry that they can say goodbye to good bladder control once they've been through pregnancy and childbirth.

Yes, some women do suffer from stress incontinence - but many of us don't. And if you are affected, then it's nothing to laugh about. After all, Tena have already taught us what can happen if you're suddenly overwhelmed by a fit of the giggles. And we wouldn't want to have an ooops moment, would we, ladies?

You can read more about simple pelvic floor exercises here.