Have you ever experienced leakage after having a baby? Does it happen when you are hiking with family? Or when your cough or sneeze? Have felt embarrassed to go out with your girlfriends because you fear laughing with them will cause you to pee? Has it ever crossed your mind that maybe there’s something you can do to prevent this from happening?
These are a lot of questions, I know. But many women feel these things are an inevitable part of aging, or something that’s normal after you have a child. Leakage — also called incontinence — is not something you have to live with. It’s one of many pelvic floor disorders that can strip women of their confidence in doing normal, everyday things they like to do. But I have good news for you. There is a solution — preventative pelvic floor therapy.
What is it?
Pelvic floor physical therapy involves the pelvic floor muscle group. A person might consider this type of therapy to help treat incontinence, difficulty with urination or bowel movements, constipation, chronic pelvic pain and painful intercourse.
Pelvic floor disorders are very common, affecting nearly 25 percent of women in the United States, according to research. Women’s bodies go through many changes in their life from puberty to menopause. These changes come with a torrent of hormonal and physical imbalances that can wreak havoc on the pelvic floor. Many women endure urinary and fecal incontinence as well as acute pelvic pain, back pain, muscle tears, tailbone fractures and other fractures, prolapsed bladders and rectum, painful sexual intercourse and abdominal separation. Some experience this at some point in their lives, most commonly after childbirth.
READ MORE: The importance of good pelvic health
Can you prevent a pelvic floor disorder?
There are many things you can do to prevent or lessen pelvic floor damage. You don’t have to wait to have signs or symptoms — such as incontinence — to work on strengthening your pelvic floor.
Here are a few tips to reduce incontinence and other issues and to help prevent future problems:
- Do your Kegels. Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. These exercises can help you prevent or better control incontinence and other pelvic floor problems.
- Check for organ prolapse. Bladder, rectal and/or uterine prolapse can cause bowel and bladder control issues, feeling of heaviness/bulging in vagina, incomplete emptying, and pain with intercourse among other things. Work with your urogynecologist and a pelvic floor rehab specialist to help alleviate and prevent future problems.
- Small changes count. Take control of constipation to prevent undue stress on the pelvic floor and strain on these muscles by drinking more water, eating fiber rich foods and using a squatty potty to relax the muscles during bowel movements.
- Take care of your diet. Decreasing bladder irritants such as coffee, soda, carbonated beverages, spicy foods and artificial sugars can slow down an overactive bladder and urgency that can lead to leakage.
- Check your bathroom schedule. Avoid going to bathroom less than every two hours but do not hold more than four hours. The ideal range is between two and four hours to avoid creating any future problems related to overactive bladder or retention.
You shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed if you’re experiencing a pelvic floor issue. In fact, I encourage you to be open and reach out to a specialist with any questions or concerns you might have related to your pelvic health.
At Anne Arundel Medical Center, we have specialists who can review with you all the above tips to alleviate any question and decrease or prevent any problems to help you improve your quality of life. Just remember, it’s completely normal and there are ways to help. We’re here to help you get back to leading a more confident life!