Are you a woman who experiences bladder control problems but are reluctant to talk to your doctor about this embarrassing problem?
Urinary incontinence is an involuntary loss of urine. The most common type of incontinence is called “stress incontinence” a condition where the combination of an increase in abdominal pressure and weakness of the pelvic floor muscles result in leakage. This is frequently experienced when coughing, sneezing, laughing, or during strenuous exertion or exercise. This problem is much more common among women.
Simply put: it is having babies. Pushing a baby through the birth canal places stretching pressures on the pelvic organs/musculature. Some women are better able to withstand and recover from the stretching than others. This childbirth related disruption of the pelvic floor can be exacerbated by long term coughing/ sneezing, constipation or increased body mass. The declining levels of hormones during and after menopause impact these effects even further.
Many people believe that nothing that can be done about urinary incontinence. This is not true. For treatment of the most common types of urinary incontinence your family doctor can refer you to a urologist and/or a physiotherapist trained in pelvic floor rehabilitation.
Treatment options within physiotherapy include pelvic floor exercises (known as “Kegels”). Most women have been told to do Kegels exercises to help with incontinence, but many do them incorrectly. Your physiotherapist can teach you to do Kegels exercises correctly, and can also employ a biofeedback unit to determine if the correct muscles are being used. In cases of extreme weakness, your physiotherapist can also employ electrical muscle stimulation to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles.
A diligently carried out pelvic floor exercise program can provide positive results in approximately eight out of ten women suffering from stress incontinence. In addition, there are certain daily habits that everyone can follow to contribute to good bladder control and pelvic floor health. Drink plenty of fluids – water, apple, grape or cranberry juice. Cut back on caffeine (coffee, tea, cola) and alcohol since these drinks increase urine production. Avoid going to the bathroom “just in case”, and try to increase the amount of time between bathroom visits. A normal bladder only needs to be emptied 5-7 times/day. Try to avoid constipation since frequent straining places increased pressure on the pelvic floor and bladder.
Urinary incontinence will not get better by itself. Talk to your doctor, and then consult a physiotherapist trained in pelvic floor rehabilitation and get back in control.