Q: I’m in my late 30s; three kids. When I cough, sneeze, laugh or even bend over, I pee a little. I’ve changed enough diapers. Now it’s pads every day. Help!
Millions of women – especially those who’ve had children – can relate. Pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are most often to blame for Stress Incontinence, the most common form of bladder leakage.
Generally, urinary incontinence can be a symptom of obesity, brain injury, diabetes or other illness, but for women, the problem is most often due to a weakened pelvic floor or damaged nerves from childbirth, estrogen deficiency or a combination of these factors. The good news is that it’s treatable.
First: Kegels, Kegels, Kegels! These simple exercises can be performed anywhere, and can help strengthen your puboccocygeus (PC) muscles – the same muscles you first learned to control during potty training. Contract your PC muscles, hold for a count of three and then release. Do three sets of ten. In my practice, we recommend using Kegel balls, small weighted orbs that can be inserted into the vagina for a few minutes to a few hours each day. The PC muscles will be working away as you go about your regular routine.
Done regularly, Kegels strengthen your pelvic floor and bladder muscles and as a bonus, may also increase the intensity of your orgasms. Strong PC muscles also reduce the risk of uterine prolapse, an unpleasant condition where the uterus collapses through the cervix and into the vagina. Just the thought makes you clench your PC muscles, doesn’t it?!
Stress Incontinence can also be improved with lifestyle changes like reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, weight loss and quitting smoking. Healthy estrogen levels are also important – especially in menopausal women. As estrogen levels fall, women may experience pain with intercourse, vaginal dryness, and bladder leakage. Estrogen helps keep the tissues of the vagina and bladder moist, flexible and toned. (It can help reduce seasonal allergies, too!)
In more serious cases of damage to the pelvic floor, pessaries or surgical procedures such as vaginoplasty or urethral sling may be recommended. Share your concerns with your family doctor or OB/GYN. Together, you can explore your treatment options and find the right solution for you.
If this sounds familiar, call and book a personal or couples consultation to review your treatment options. 480.619.4097