OAB: Overactive Bladder

WebMD Live Events Transcript

An estimated 13 million Americans -- 85% of them women -- suffer from bladder control problems, a condition known as urinary incontinence. Are you one of them? It can be embarrassing and upsetting. If you get that sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate, it may be overactive bladder (OAB). Olympic gymnastics champion Mary Lou Retton, "America's Sweetheart," suffered for years with OAB symptoms. She joined us on Aug. 10, 2005 to chat about her experience.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR:
Welcome to WebMD Live, Mary Lou. Thank you for joining us today.

RETTON:
It's good to be here. Thank you.

MODERATOR:
How long did you have symptoms of OAB?

RETTON:
I cannot remember a time when I did not have it. But I did not know that I had it. I lived with this condition my entire life not knowing it. I know we're on the computer now, but those of you that know of me, I'm little, 4 foot 9, weight probably less than 100 pounds, so my motto was little people had little bladders. I always justified and made excuses for why I had to go the bathroom so much.

It was probably in my teenage years when I really saw that I was a little bit different from my teammates, training with for the Olympics at this time, training with my coach. I would be the only teammate that would have to sneak out of the gym real fast go to the bathroom and sneak back in -- my teammates would cover for me. My teenage years were probably the first time that I noticed that I might not be normal in this area. Again, I kept justifying it. I wasn't dying, it wasn't that serious; I just went to the bathroom a lot.

People who suffer from this condition, OAB, were pros. We use all kind of coping skills to live with this condition.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Did it interfere with your sport? How did you handle it during competition?

RETTON:
It did interfere with my sport. Again, not knowing I had this condition I always had the fear that if I was up on the balance beam, the bars or any of the events during a competition I would have that small fear in the back of my mind -- oh my goodness, what happens if I have to go to the bathroom? So what I would do is curtail my drinking and for an athlete who's training at an Olympic level, drinking plenty of water and hydrating yourself is a priority. But I would stop drinking usually midmorning the day of a competition so I would not have that fear, and that's terrible.

"How did you manage pregnancy when we all have to go all of the time?"

MEMBER QUESTION:
Do you have children? How did you manage pregnancy when we all have to go all of the time? It must have been rough.

RETTON:
Yes, it was. I have four children, four little girls. They're 10, 8, 5, and 3. When I speak on this condition to the public, I use being nine months pregnant as an example: people who suffer from OAB feel like they have to go all the time, just like you feel when you're nine months pregnant. It's very uncomfortable.

MODERATOR:
Are any of the girls little gymnasts?

RETTON:
Yes. My 10- and 8-year-old are on the gymnastics team. My 5- and my 3-year-old take gymnastics once a week for one hour. But we also play soccer, softball, and are involved in the church choir.