It's Not Ok To Pee Your Pants... EVER!
By Kristen Parise and Megan Salomons
Registered Physiotherapists specializing in Pelvic Health
Let’s face it ladies, we’re pretty awesome. I mean, we have the capability of growing a human inside of us! But...”with great power comes great responsibility”, right?
One of the biggest misunderstandings that Kristen and I encounter daily is the notion that once you have a child (or 2 or 3 or 4), it’s ‘normal’ to leak when you laugh/cough/sneeze/run/jump. Well, we’ll let you in a secret: IT IS NEVER NORMAL TO LEAK!! *BOOM* - did that just blow your mind?! Even if you haven’t had children, leaking is not something you have to ‘learn to live with’.
Kristen said the following in a presentation that we did and I absolutely love it - “if every time you went for a run, fluid came out of your ear, you’d go get that checked, wouldn’t you?” - absolutely! I think because, as women, we’re used to things coming from our vagina (our periods, discharge, babies, etc), we tend to normalize it. Also, let’s be real, it’s kind of an embarrassing topic to discuss, yet another reason why we may shy away from seeking help.
We want to provide you ladies with some information on incontinence, the different types, some other common causes, and when to seek help.
Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that's so sudden and strong you don't get to a toilet in time.
Though it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence isn't an inevitable consequence of aging. If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don't hesitate to see your doctor or pelvic health physiotherapist. The First-Line of defense against incontinence has been shown to be pelvic health physiotherapy.
Types of urinary incontinence include:
Stress incontinence. Urine leaks when you exert pressure on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy.
Urge incontinence. You have a sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. You may need to urinate often, including throughout the night. Urge incontinence may be caused by a minor condition, such as infection, or a more-severe condition such as a neurologic disorder or diabetes.
Overflow incontinence. You experience frequent or constant dribbling of urine due to a bladder that doesn't empty completely.
Mixed incontinence. You experience more than one type of urinary incontinence.
When to seek help?
You may feel uncomfortable discussing incontinence, but it’s important to note that incontinence affects many women (research shows up to 50%) and there is very effective treatment through pelvic health physiotherapy. If incontinence is frequent or is affecting your quality of life, it's important to seek help as it may start to impact your daily activities and social interactions.
Urinary incontinence isn't a disease, it's a symptom. It can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions or physical problems. A thorough evaluation by a pelvic health physiotherapist can help determine what's behind your incontinence.
- Certain drinks, foods and medications may act as diuretics — stimulating your bladder and increasing your volume of urine.
- Urinary incontinence may also be caused by an easily treatable medical condition, such as:
- Urinary tract infection. Infections can irritate your bladder, causing you to have strong urges to urinate, and sometimes incontinence.
- Constipation. The rectum is located near the bladder and shares many of the same nerves. Hard, compacted stool in your rectum causes these nerves to be overactive and increase urinary frequency.
Urinary incontinence can also be a persistent condition caused by underlying physical problems or changes, including:
o Pregnancy. Hormonal changes and the increased weight of the fetus can lead to stress incontinence.
o Childbirth. Vaginal delivery can weaken muscles needed for bladder control and also damage bladder nerves and supportive tissue, leading to a dropped (prolapsed) pelvic floor. With prolapse, the bladder, uterus, rectum or small intestine can get pushed down from the usual position and protrude into the vagina. Such protrusions can be associated with incontinence.
o Changes with age. Aging of the bladder muscle can decrease the bladder's capacity to store urine. Also, involuntary bladder contractions become more frequent as you get older.
o Menopause. After menopause women produce less estrogen, a hormone that helps keep the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy. Deterioration of these tissues can aggravate incontinence.
o Hysterectomy. In women, the bladder and uterus are supported by many of the same muscles and ligaments. Any surgery that involves a woman's reproductive system, including removal of the uterus, may damage the supporting pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to incontinence.
o Obstruction . A tumor anywhere along your urinary tract can block the normal flow of urine, leading to overflow incontinence. Urinary stones — hard, stone-like masses that form in the bladder — sometimes cause urine leakage.
o Neurological disorders . Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, a stroke, a brain tumor or a spinal injury can interfere with nerve signals involved in bladder control, causing urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence isn't always preventable. However, to help decrease your risk:
o See a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist to determine the best exercises for you
o Maintain a healthy weight
o Avoid bladder irritants, such as caffeine, alcohol and acidic foods
o Eat more fiber, which can prevent constipation, a cause of urinary incontinence o Don't smoke, or seek help to quit smoking