written by Natalie Pattillo

Body Banter

Interstitial Cystitis: The Low Down on Spasming Bladders


Natalie Pattillo

After exploring POP (Pelvic Organ Prolapse), we were floored by the emails, comments, and messages of *solidar-i-pee & gratitude* we received. So when Brenda Dickerson, a 68-year-old beauty from Birmingham left a comment about living w/ Interstitial Cystitis on our recent Dribble Diaries post, we had to investigate. We can’t pronounce Interstitial Cystitis without our tongues tripping up, so let's just call it IC. Cool? Cool.

IC had its moment earlier this year when Lena Dunham posted on Instagram about her spasming bladder. To dive deep into what life is like with IC, we chatted with Brenda and Dr. Kimberly Ferrante, uro-gynecologist & pelvic floor pro.


Recurring pelvic pain, pressure, and irritation are the telltale symptoms of IC—specifically pain that intensifies w/ foods like tomatoes, oranges, jalapeños or sugary & fizzy drinks as your bladder fills. The bladder pain usually dissipates after peeing. When a flare-up strikes, an unbearable urge(s) to pee often (up to 40-60 or more times per day) is super common with IC.

The IC Association estimates that 3 - 8 million American women may be living with the condition. You are not, we repeat, absolutely not **aaaall by youuurseeelf** (Celine Dion anyone?) if you've been diagnosed with IC. New research shows it's actually more widespread than previously thought. 

Dr. Ferrante said that the causes of IC are still a mystery. But healthcare professionals have a few theories. Triggers such as pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, autoimmune disorders, bacterial infections, bladder trauma from pelvic surgery, and even seasonal allergies can lead to the onset of IC. 


  • In early or very mild mild cases, peeing a whooooole lot can be the only symptom

  • Having to pee ASAP (a non-negotiable get-out-of-my-way-and-find-me-a-damn-bathroom sorta feeling) which can be accompanied w/ pain, pressure, or spasms

  • Pain in the lower stomach, urethra, and/or vagina

  • Discomfort or pain during sex

Brenda's search for a diagnosis took over 5 years. "The pain and peeing around the clock affected my sleep and I was restless" she said. "And when I went out all I could think about was 'where is the next bathroom?' It's a lot of anxiety and stress."

    Since the symptoms of IC might seem like chronic UTIs, Docs have trouble pinning it down. Brenda didn't even know what the heck IC was when they diagnosed her with it. "When they told me I had it five years ago, there was nobody to call to ask for support or effective treatments. We've got to talk about stuff like this more so no one feels alone like I did." #withher

     (breathe in and out...you're amazing)

    If you think about it, the tougher part is over. What was once unknown excruciating pain and discomfort is now (medically) charted territory. Dr. Ferrante said that while there's no cure, there are definitely ways to feel better. "Increased stress levels can trigger flare-ups so we try to manage that first. It could be meditating, going to a therapist, or exercising. Everyone's different so whatever feels relaxing for that person." Pelvic floor therapy or an IC diet are promising avenues to explore. 

    Take Brenda's lead and don't stay silent. You never know when you could help a fellow ICer. “I talk about it because I want people to know that if you have it, you can manage it, but it’s hard to know what works and what doesn't without support," Brenda shared.

    *~What pee probs should we tackle next? Email me: natalie@shethinx.com~*

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