This week is World Continence Week and according to Continence Foundation of Australia chief executive Rowan Cockerell women are continuing to laugh off the issue rather than seek help.
“There continues to be a misconception that incontinence is an inevitable result of having children or ageing, and that’s just not true. Incontinence is common, but it’s not normal and should be treated just like any other health condition,” she says.
“The good news is, treatment usually involves simple lifestyle changes and pelvic floor muscle exercises, which everyone should be doing anyway to prevent incontinence.”
Pregnancy can be the most magical time in a woman’s life, and yet many women are still unprepared for the changes their body will experience even before they have given birth.
Most changes are all completely normal, but unlike stretch marks, an aching back and sleepless nights, bladder weakness is something that many women have difficulty talking about.
Conservatively it is estimated that a staggering 2 in 3 women will experience some form of bladder weakness during pregnancy. This is because pregnancy, labour and birth place additional strain on the pelvic floor muscles – weakening them.
Stress incontinence, bladder weakness, or LBL (light bladder leakage) can occur just from laughing, sneezing, or coughing. For some it can be a real problem, but for many women it only amounts to a few drops now and then. No matter how minor the leakage, it’s still annoying and can lead to some embarrassing moments in what should be a beautiful time.
The importance of pelvic floor exercises
What are pelvic floor muscles?
The muscles of the pelvic floor stretch like a trampoline from your tailbone at the back to your pubic bone at the front and side to side between your hips. They are extremely important for the support of the internal organs (the bladder, bowel and uterus) as well as bladder and bowel function.
The pelvic floor muscles can become strained and weakened during pregnancy and childbirth, leading to pelvic floor dysfunction and LBL (light bladder leakage) or continence problems.
A large number of mothers suffer bladder weakness during and after pregnancy.
This is why it is increasingly important for mothers to keep these pelvic floor muscles as strong as possible before, during, and after pregnancy.
How to improve bladder weakness
For many women, bladder weakness can be cured and in almost every case there is something that can be done to manage and improve the situation.
There are several things you can do to ensure you have a healthy bladder:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Don’t go to the toilet “just in case” or every time you get the urge – try to hold on a bit longer
- Cut down on bladder irritants such as coffee, tea, cola drinks, and alcohol
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Learn to do pelvic floor exercises
How to do pelvic floor muscles exercises
Like any muscles, pelvic floor muscles need a regular workout to stay strong. Pelvic floor muscles need particular attention during pregnancy and post birth.
By strengthening your pelvic floor muscles through a series of simple exercises, you will be able to improve control of your bladder. Here is a pelvic floor exercise routine to try:
- Squeeze, lift, and activate your pelvic floor as though you are trying not to pass wind or trying to stop a wee.
- Squeeze and lift 3 times quickly relaxing between each one.
- Squeeze the pelvic floor muscles and hold for 3 seconds and slowly release for 3 seconds.
- Repeat 3 times.
- Do these 3 times a day.
If you find the exercises getting easier, hold for longer and increase repetitions. It may take 6 to 12 weeks before you notice any improvement.
Remembering to do your pelvic floor exercises can sometimes be difficult. A good way to remember is to choose a trigger—such as every time you put the kettle on, sit down to feed your baby or wash your hands.
The content in this article should be used as a guide only. If you experience any health-related concerns you should contact your local healthcare provider or nearest emergency department.
– written with information from the Continence Foundation Australia