“Wet and miserable” doesn’t just describe the weather – it describes the lives of women who share a secret malady – they wet themselves!
Simply put – it’s having babies. Pushing a baby through the birth canal places all sorts of stretching pressures on most of the pelvic organs and muscles. It seems that some women are able to withstand this stretching better than others.
Other things can cause problems for the pelvic floor as well – for example – long term coughing, sneezing, constipation or increased body mass. On top of that, declining levels of hormones during and after menopause also contributes to the downward spiral!
Myths About Urinary Incontinence
Since incontinence is not a topic discussed openly among sufferers, many myths surround the problem.
- “Only old ladies have it!” Not true. Many younger women suffer with the problem. In Canada nearly a million women under the age of 40 are incontinent of urine. While the prevalence of urinary incontinence increases with age, it often starts in young women after having a baby. However, it can happen even if you have never had children.
- “This is as bad as it will get” or ”It will get better by itself”. Not true. With time, incontinent women generally report their symptoms to be worsening. The symptoms cannot and will not just simply disappear – unless appropriate action is taken!
- “There’s nothing that can be done about it.” Not true. Pelvic Floor exercises help 80% of women with stress incontinence. They also help to “get a grip” during lovemaking, and improve sexual responsiveness.
What can I do to help myself?
Maintaining a healthy and strong pelvic floor is very important for staying in control and remaining continent for life. There are a number of steps that every woman can take to improve and to keep the pelvic floor muscles strong, healthy and well toned:
- Avoid constipation. Repeated straining can have a very damaging effect on the pelvic floor muscles.
- It’s important for women to be active. Regular exercise and recreational sporting activities play a key role in keeping women fit and healthy well into old age. Do not stop exercising because you leak. If this means wearing protection – then so be it – pad up and play on.
- Drink plenty of water –drinking less than 6-8 cups per day, makes your urine more concentrated and can increase certain types of incontinence (urgency and frequency, also known as overactive bladder)
- Learn to ‘hold on’ until your bladder is full and train it to hold at least 350 ml of urine. This means using the toilet only about 6 times a day. Rule out making toilet trips “just in case”.
- Learn to tighten your pelvic floor muscles before you cough, sneeze or lift heavy items. This is called getting ‘the knack’
- Exercise your pelvic floor; ask your specially- trained physiotherapist how to do Kegels properly. Internal exams are the gold standard for ensuring proper exercise.