Breaking the Stigma: The Effort to Empower Women with Bladder Control Issues - Diane Newman

July 17, 2023

Diane Newman emphasizes her work in patient advocacy and public education, particularly in addressing urinary incontinence - a problem often unreported by women. She shares her history of being interviewed by numerous publications, including the Philadelphia Enquirer and USA Today, which have highlighted her research and patient treatment programs. One poignant patient story is shared: a successful real estate agent contemplating quitting her job due to severe overactive bladder symptoms, who Dr. Newman successfully helped to regain control over her life. Dr. Newman further discusses the shame and embarrassment many women feel about urinary incontinence, pointing out her numerous publications examining why women often hide this problem and how healthcare providers can address it more effectively. She recalls additional interviews conducted by Delta Airline's Sky Magazine and a publication in Long Island, helping to further illuminate this widespread issue.


Diane K. Newman, DNP, ANP-BC, BCB-PMD, FAAN, Adjunct Professor of Urology in Surgery, Research Investigator Senior, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and Former Co-Director of the Penn Center for Continence and Pelvic Health, Philadelphia, PA

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Diane Newman: I've also been very much involved in advocacy to patients, but also to really the lay public, as far as educating them on this problem. I have actually been interviewed for many publications over the years, and you can see here a younger version of me, that was 1987 where I actually did a research study in the state of New Jersey, was actually supported by the state of New Jersey as far as grant funding. Where we went in Gloucester County into a health center, which was a county health center and provided by a feedback, pelvic floor muscle training. And you can see by this newspaper article that I was actually using quite big equipment and we actually worked with individuals who came into the county health center.

In 1993, the Philadelphia Enquirer in their health section interviewed me about the program that I was doing in an office setting as far as providing these treatments. I was also interviewed by USA Today, and this is back in 2008. And as you can see from the title that incontinence is a hidden problem. The data shows that less than 50% of women who have this problem come forward and report it. And they asked me to identify one of my patients, and this is one of my patients who came to me years ago. And I want to tell you a little bit about her story. She's shared it with many, many people. And actually she was quoted in a USA Today article on urinary incontinence. She's a real estate agent in Philadelphia suburbs. And she came to me back over 10 years ago because she was going to give up her career. She was going to stop showing houses. She was very successful. But what she found is that she had overactive bladder symptoms of urgency and frequency, and that urgency would lead to incontinence, urine leakage.

And she couldn't do it anymore, because she talked about walking up the steps of a house to show a potential buyer. And she started to have urgency. She couldn't use the bathrooms in that house. Of course, she would not do that, and she would leak urine and she knew what was happening. She was worried about that it would be visible. So she really didn't want to work anymore. And she came to me and to this day, she's done very, very well. I've actually seen her, she comes back once a year and she talked about how much shame and embarrassed she was over it. By the way, she's still selling houses in the Philadelphia suburbs. So I was able to successfully help her, keep her life basically, and she's grateful to this day. So it's really nice for USA Today to highlight this problem.

This is a problem that women won't talk about. I see both men and women. I'm in a urology practice, so I actually see quite a bit of men, especially after some type of prostate treatment or surgery. They may have some bladder dysfunction and I will treat them and they come forward. Women do not. For some reason, women just wait years and years. And over my career, I've actually had many publications on the fact of why women don't talk about it, how they hide it, and how we as providers can talk to patients about bladder control issues.

I've also had other publications. One was actually Delta, the Airline Sky Magazine, which if any of you fly the little magazine in the back of the seat there. They actually interviewed me about this problem, and this was in 2000, and this is actually in 2005. In Long Island, they interviewed me about a woman who actually developed a problem after childbirth. We see about a third of women who deliver vaginally will have urinary incontinence. They leak urine with laughing, coughing, sneezing, which is called stress incontinence. And they highlighted this woman with her young child who was actually considering surgery for that problem.