Common bladder problems and infections

Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

22 February 2016

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I’m going to be talking about bladder health in the menopause. Now bladder problems on the approach and in the menopause and after the menopause are very, very common, but they can be several different symptoms, and there can be lots of different causes for this. So it can actually be quite complex.

So I’m just going to look at a couple and go through them and explain why this can happen and what you can actually do to help yourself.

Weak bladder

One of the main issues is a weak bladder. You may find that you start needing to go to the toilet more. You start having to get up in the middle of the night. Or you find that if you laugh, or run, or jump you end up getting a little bit of a leak.

Now, what can happen here is as you go through the menopause, your oestrogen starts to fall. And this fall in oestrogen can actually affect the strength of the bladder valve. So it just gets a little bit weaker and because of that, the bladder then is unable to hold as much urine and that’s what makes you need to go to the toilet more.

What can help as well is we have something called the pelvic girdle muscles. Which are a bit like a hammock that’s slung across the inside of the hip bones and these hold up your bladder, your uterus, and the bowel. And especially if you’ve had children, during the menopause these muscles can get a little bit weak and they can just drop a little bit. And that can be enough to slightly shift the bladder, which will then maybe make it slightly more sensitive, and that can also trigger the need to go a little bit more as well.

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So what can you do for these particular symptoms?

Well one of the most important things, believe it or not, is water. If your bladder valve is already a little bit weak and you don’t drink enough water, then over time the urine gets more acidic, it gets more concentrated, and that will then irritate the already weak bladder valve. And that can make you want to go to the toilet a lot more.

So drinking lots of water, number one. The other thing you can look at is phytoestrogen supplements, such as our menopause support, because they can gently help to raise up oestrogen and that might help to strengthen the valve a little bit as well. And the other thing, which is really important for keeping all these organs in place and to strengthen the pelvic girdle muscles, is called the Kegel exercises. And it’s just simple little exercises that you can do every day while you’re brushing your teeth or waiting for the bus or waiting for the kettle to boil. All you need to do is Google “Kegel exercises” and the instructions will pop up. And it’s really important to do these on a daily basis if you can.

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Bladder infections and cystitis

The other main problem with the bladder during the menopause is bladder infections. And a lot of woman find they end up getting cystitis. I know for myself the first time I ended up with cystitis was at the start of the menopause and it can be quite surprising. You can also find you end up getting repeat bladder infections. You may also find that your bladder gets really sore. You get cystitis-like symptoms, but when you go to the doctor there isn’t actually any infection present.

Now, this is quite complicated so bear with me. When you go through the menopause falling oestrogen will affect the production of a slightly acidic mucous in the vagina. And this mucous helps to promote friendly bacteria there. Now, we have friendly bacteria in the vagina as well as in the digestive system and these friendly bacteria in the vagina help to keep everything in balance. But because the opening of the vagina and the entrance to the urethra, which is the tube to the bladder, are very close together, you can get cross infections going on. So the friendly bacteria in the vagina actually work at guarding the opening of the urethra as well. So if the level of friendly bacteria in the vagina start to fall, this will leave the bladder much more vulnerable to bladder infections.

And the problem is that when you go to the doctor with cystitis you will more than likely get antibiotics. And the antibiotics will kill off more of the friendly bacteria in the vagina and you end up with a vicious circle here and you end up getting repeat infections. You then go and get more antibiotics, then you get another infection, and you could find this could go on for ages. And won’t actually clear up at all.

You remember there was something called “honeymoon cystitis.” Well this can actually happen during the menopause as well. A lot of woman still enjoy a very healthy sex life, but because the level of friendly bacteria in the vagina is less, there is more opportunity for infection and also more likelihood of irritation as well. Purely because the vagina walls can get a lot thinner and a lot more vulnerable to stress as well.


The other thing we’ve got, believe it or not, is dehydration. And as I mentioned before, dehydration can actually really irritate the opening of the valve of the bladder. If that goes on for too long then the bladder valve can get so irritated and inflamed that it can end up causing cystitis-like symptoms. This is really horrible. I know I actually had that once. I won’t go into it but there’s a whole set of circumstances. I ended up very, very dehydrated and my bladder just went into meltdown. And the problem is that when something like this happens in the menopause, it’s very difficult for the bladder to actually bounce back like it would have done beforehand.

So I actually find now I only need to go one day without drinking enough water and my bladder will let me know, and it usually happens about 3 o’clock in the morning. So drinking water’s really, really important here.

What remedies are there?

So what can you do in this particular situation where they may be an infection or there may not be an infection? If you have it diagnosed that there’s an infection going on you could look at our Uva-ursi & Echinacea Complex. And this has actually been licensed for relieving the symptoms of cystitis. You could also pop over to our new A.Vogel Talks Cystitis for more information on how to actually help yourself.

The other thing that could be really good for keeping the bladder in tip top shape is cranberry. We know that it can help to keep the bladder wall healthy. It can stop bad bacteria from sticking to it. But cranberry is nice to use on an ongoing basis as a preventative and support for the bladder.

The problem is that cranberry juice very often contains a lot of sugar, which really doesn’t help at all.

So maybe have a little look at our new Cranberry Complex and see if that might be beneficial for you. The other thing to do, especially if you’ve had antibiotics, is to get a good probiotic. Now ordinary probiotics won’t really help the vaginal area. There is a company called OptiBac that have developed a probiotic especially for the vagina. So this is a nice one to use, so have a little Google about that if you have a spare minute.

Other changes you can make

The other thing you need to look at are your soaps, shower gels, bath bombs, and your underwear. The reason being remember that the falling friendly bacteria in the vaginal area can lessen the protectiveness, if you like. The whole area can become much more sensitive to chemicals. And a lot of the shower gels and things that we use, they’re absolutely full of chemicals and combinations of chemicals. And these can actually start to irritate this whole area.

Now, one of the things I’d like you to do for this week, there is an organization called, “The Environmental Working Group,” which you can Google. And they will give you a list of all the chemicals that are used in day-to-day products and what they may actually do to your skin and the rest of the body.

So have a little look at the products you’re using, see all the chemicals in them, and have a Google. And you might actually be really horrified about what you’ve actually been exposing your skin to. There are lots of lovely organic or natural skincare products that you can get at your health food shop that are not terribly expensive. So they’re really worth looking into.

The other thing to keep this whole area nice and healthy is to allow air to get a good circulation in. So if you’re wearing underwear and pants and tights made of man-made fibers, this can actually be part of the problem as well. So look at wearing cotton pants if you can, because that can actually make quite a difference as well.

When to see a doctor

Just one little thing. If you get blood in your urine, if you feel that you’re getting a temperature, or you really don’t feel well, it’s very important to go and get this checked out by your doctor before you start treating it naturally.

Until next week

So hopefully this has given you a little bit of food for thought. I’m looking forward to next week when, on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I’ll be answering some of your questions.

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Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

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