Urinary stress incontinence is the involuntary leaking of urine during activities like running, jumping, laughing or coughing.
Unless you’ve had the conversation with someone, you would be mistaken for thinking that this wasn’t common. And that what you are experiencing is something you have to accept. Well if that’s the case you are wrong! Up to 50% of women experience urinary stress incontinence during exercise and for many this can prevent them from exercising altogether. Most don’t talk about it. Let’s face it it’s embarrassing.
However it is VERY treatable. 75% of women can improve or get rid of their incontinence with the correct pelvic floor muscle training.
What are your pelvic floor muscles and what causes my incontinence?
They are the floor of your pelvis, running from the front of the pelvis to the back, helping you control your front and back passage functions, such as passing water and bowel motions, and your vaginal muscles.
These muscles work all the time to keep the bladder and bowel from leaking. When they are weakened e.g. from pregnancy, childbirth, back pain or menopause they can have trouble controlling the bladder and bowel functions when they are put under stress, such as when we cough, laugh, sneeze, jump or run. This can cause leakage.
Some people’s pelvic floor is too tight, or “stays on” too much of the time, so the muscles can’t work well enough during high-impact activities.
How you can help yourself:
- Train your pelvic floor muscles:
When you are first doing this, lying on your side can be a good position to start in as it can be easiest to feel if they are working.
Breathe in, as you breathe out, relax your body, including your pelvic floor.
Breathe in again, as you breathe out, tighten around the back passage as if you are passing wind, then bring that feeling forward to the front passages. Count to 5 out loud (just to make sure you are not holding your breath!). Rest for 5 seconds, and do 5 times. Your stomach should stay quite relaxed.
If this is too easy, you can increase to holding for 10 seconds, 10 times when standing.
Once you are confident you are doing them well lying down, it is important to bring them into play in other positions. This is to train your body to use them when you are up and about when you need them (walking, running, getting up from a chair).
Getting them stronger:
It is also important to train the muscles for when you need them in a hurry. Imagine you are tightening your pelvic floor strongly like a yo-yo then letting go fully. Aim for 10 of these, make sure you keep breathing. Your ultimate goal is to do 20 of these fast contractions in standing.
Practice pulling in the pelvic floor strongly, and holding for a cough, when you have finished, relax the pelvic floor. This helps to prevent a leak.
- Avoid constipation
If you are straining for bowel motions, this weakens your pelvic floor muscles. Here are some tips to help you (note this is not a substitute for medical advice – consult your doctor if you are experiencing dietary distress):
– Ensure you are well hydrated.
– Change your toileting position