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Shawna
Shawna Wagner

Shawna Wagner works as a Talent Acquisition Leader and has 15 years of experience working in human resources. She says her passion for building relationships and connecting people to opportunities motivates her to excel in her field. Shawna and her family have always loved being physically active for health, with hiking and running being her favorite sports. She has participated in 5K and 10K races and just finished participating in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day For The Cure walk. She plans to run again soon in the Chicago half marathon. Shawna lives with her family in Minnesota.

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Interview With a Woman Who Overcame Bladder Control Issues: Shawna Wagner

Many women experience loss of bladder control when they sneeze or jump. But for Shawna Wagner, bladder control problems had seriously affected her quality of life. An avid runner and hiker, she had to alter her workouts after the birth of her daughters because she had bladder leaks while participating in high impact sports. After years of living with urinary incontinence, Shawna chose to have surgery for her condition. Read on to find out more about how bladder control problems affect women, and the treatment options that are available.

When did you first notice your bladder control issues?

I really started to notice my bladder issue after the birth of my second daughter which was 14 years ago.

Can you describe the symptoms you had?

My bladder leaked when I did high-impact activities such as running or circuit training. It also leaked when I did activities with my daughters such as volleyball and tennis.

Did you have any embarrassing moments because of your inability to control your bladder?

Absolutely! I have two very vivid moments that I remember. The first happened about 4 years ago during a family vacation to Banff, Canada, when we went horseback riding in the mountains. I had no idea that riding would be a "trigger" for my bladder leakage. I have to say, it was probably my most embarrassing event because it was so noticeable since I wore blue jeans. The second major incident happened fairly recently. It was the tipping point for me to seek treatment. While running was a trigger for my bladder leakage, I could manage it by running early in the morning, not drinking any liquids, and, of course, always wearing a pad. Last October I competed in a 10-mile race. I felt great on race day and was so excited to participate — but by mile two of the race, I was completely soaked. What I didn't anticipate is that drinking extra water the day before the race would cause major bladder leakage during the race. I completed the race but promised myself I would seek treatment for this issue.

Did bladder control affect your life in any other way?

It really only impacted my physical activity and fitness choices. It also affected the types of activities I could engage in with my daughters and backyard activities such as playing on the swingset. I had to wear pads, and I didn't feel confident when interacting with others.

Why do you think women have a hard time talking about bladder control?

I really don't know. I was one of those women who "dealt" with it and it took me years to bring this issue to my physician. There is no doubt it is embarrassing but I think, in hindsight, I'm more embarrassed that I lived with it for as long as I did. I knew there were treatment options available and it took me far too long to pursue them. I will never get those years back I didn't play with my daughters. I believe that life is short and you should live every day to its fullest. After many years of not doing things because of bladder control problems, I am active again and it feels great!

What did you do to treat your issue?

I wanted a permanent solution, not just another way to "deal" with the issue. Because of that, I chose to have a minimally-invasive sling procedure. A sling procedure involves placing a support near the bladder; this can usually solve stress incontinence. It is a long term solution for people whose bladder conditions can't be fixed through more traditional treatments.

How is your life after treatment?

It's wonderful. There are very few days that go by that I don't think how happy I am that I finally took charge of this issue. I now have the ability to choose what time of day I want to exercise. It's awesome! And the fact that I have no limitations to my activity is equally awesome! I will be participating in my first half marathon in September and that would have never been possible without the treatment I had.

How can women with bladder control issues get help?

Don't be afraid to talk to your physicians about your symptoms. Also educate yourself about the treatment options. Unfortunately, many physicians may still recommend using a pad but I believe women today deserve treatment options beyond what our grandmothers had as a choice.

What do you do to stay healthy?

I love the outdoors so as a family we love to hike and bike. I also enjoy running and participating in group fitness classes.

Content last updated October 05, 2011.

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