Ok, I know what you’re thinking but you couldn’t be more wrong! Today we will talk about urinary incontinence and the way it affects our daily living.
To feel wet at inopportune moments and the necessity to wear incontinence pads as a precautionary measure every day can be really difficult and embarrassing for women. It can impact on self-esteem and even affect the ability to enjoy healthy sexual relationships. Unfortunately, women don’t tend to discuss these common ailments over coffee, therefore so many women consider themselves alone with these problems. But I am here to tell you; you are NOT alone.
Urinary incontinence is so common and occurs in up to 90% of patients we see each year. We often see ‘stress’ incontinence meaning that a sneeze or a coughing fit means some bladder leakage.
Firstly we have to remember that urinary incontinence is not a disease! It’s a symptom. It is important to first ascertain that there are no underlying health conditions as these may cause urinary leakage. This is where it is vital to start with a medical check up to rule out urinary tract infections. Constipation may also be a cause because hard, compacted stools in the rectum may cause the nerves surrounding the pelvic floor to be overactive there-by increasing urinary frequency.
There are many causes but the one we see that normally starts the ball rolling is pregnancy. During pregnancy you may experience some urgency to empty your bladder. In early pregnancy it is because of hormonal changes and as the pregnancy progresses it is more due to the weight of the developing baby. I believe that this is Mother Nature’s way of warning us that we need to start our pelvic floor exercises now!
Child birth, especially vaginal delivery may lead to some weakness of the pelvic floor muscle group. This may lead to a prolapse of the bladder, uterus and even the small intestine in some instances. These protrusions can lead to varying levels of incontinence. An evaluation by a gynaecologist is highly recommended for such prolapses.
Post-Menopausal Women also have some biological changes where-by we produce less oestrogen and therefore may lose strength in the lining of the bladder and the urethra (the tube that runs down from the bladder and into the pelvic area to allow urination). Deterioration of these tissues may increase the incidence of incontinence.
Post hysterectomy can also be the cause for urinary incontinence as the uterus and the bladder are supported by many of the same ligaments and muscles. Any pelvic surgery can have the potential to damage these supporting muscles.
Excess weight is another cause of urinary incontinence, so maintaining all aspects of a healthy body is always vital. Excess mid-range fat puts pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor muscle group.
When I was still nursing and before I became a mum, I worked in Urology. I was very fortunate to work in this area as this is where it brought home to me the importance of Pelvic Floor Exercises. Otherwise known as Kegel exercises, they are repetitive contractions of the pelvic muscles that control the flow of urination in order to strengthen these muscle. Doing these exercises daily is the most effective way to strengthen those muscles! It is interesting to note that these muscles when strengthened can also enhance responsiveness during intercourse- winning J
It’s not as though you need to go to a gym or invest in any expensive equipment, and we all have to remember that if we are lucky, we get the opportunity to age and with age comes many different challenges that we are faced with.
Then, there are things that we can do to reduce the impact of a weakened pelvic floor and make life enjoyable again. There are certain foods, drinks and medications that act as diuretics (stimulate your bladder causing increased passing of urine) in the body.
- ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
- DECAFFEINATED COFFEE AND TEA
- CARBONATED DRINKS
- HIGHLY SPICED FOODS
- FOODS WITH HIGH SUGAR CONTENT
- CITRUS FRUITS (especially oranges and mandarins as these are acidic)
- CORN SYRUP
- HEART AND BLOOD PRESSURE MEDICATIONS
Avoid heavy lifting during and just after pregnancy as this may increase the impact on the pelvic floor muscles. So share the load when you need to lift, get help from someone to assist you or do it for you.
Tip: Also try to avoid bouncing exercises until you know that your pelvic floor is stronger. The trampoline has seen many a woman come undone!
Some suggestions of supplementation that may assist you with pelvic floor strengthening are:
- MAGNESIUM (the muscle supporting mineral and also settling to the nervous system)
- VITAMIN D as this vitamin promotes calcium in the body and supports bone health.
- OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS (fish oil) anti-inflammatory and also support healthy hormonal function.
AND just in case you require more evidence why smoking is so bad for you, nicotine is a bladder irritant. So QUIT SMOKING!
There is so much to learn about the feminine body through the stages of life, and knowing your body, how to balance it, keep it nurtured and healthy is so important for a happy life. Stay tuned to our blog and Facebook posts as due to high demand we are going to be addressing these stages of womanhood. We will also be doing some speaking events and information sessions in the Geelong area!