Urinary incontinence may be the stuff that post-partum and old lady jokes are made of, but it’s no laughing matter when it becomes a part of your daily life. Many women don’t realize that you can proactively prevent urinary incontinence before it starts. An added bonus? Working to prevent bladder leakage before it starts can also help to avoid or amend pelvic organ prolapse.
Basic facts about urinary incontinence
Here are some quick facts about urinary incontinence:
- About 25% to 45% of adult women have experienced urinary incontinence in the past year.
- Age is the most common cause. While only 20% to 30% of younger women have issues with urinary incontinence, 50% or more of older women experience it.
- While childbirth is the most significant cause, close seconds are menopause, being overweight, smoking, and/or chronic coughing and diabetes (resulting from nerve damage).
- Incontinence can have significant ramifications for women, ranging from a fear of going out in public or participating in social events to more frequent infections and sexual complications.
There are six different types of urinary incontinence. The most common are stress incontinence, which happens when you laugh, sneeze or jump on a trampoline, and urge incontinence, which occurs when you have a strong urge to use the bathroom.
Things like pregnancy and bladder infections can also cause or exacerbate the effects of urinary incontinence.
Make pelvic floor health a top priority
If you’re focused on losing weight and toning those muscles, take advantage of your exercise time to focus on those pelvic floor muscles. Even five- to 10 minutes a day (while you’re in the car, before falling asleep each night) of kegel exercise can make a noticeable difference in bladder leakage.
Here are tips for preventing urinary incontinence by improving pelvic floor health.
- Talk to a personal trainer. Do you currently go to a gym? Seek out a female personal trainer and ask about pelvic floor exercises. You can also search online to find pelvic physical therapists in your area. Many of them host free or very low-cost classes from time to time that focuses on pelvic floor health, some acutely designed for urinary incontinence.
- Do your Kegels. Kegels aren’t the only pelvic floor exercise you should be doing, but they’re one of the most important. The true kegel will only rely on the other muscles (don’t let your abs or glutes try to help!) than the ones you use to stop the urine flow. Read Mayo Clinic’s Kegel Exercises: A how-to guide for women for detailed instructions on a healthy kegel workout.
- Take a yoga or Pilates class. Some of the best pelvic floor exercises are inherently built into a typical yoga class. For a brief at-home tutorial, check out Yoga Journal’s Yoga Poses for the Pelvis. The article, 5 Tummy Toning Exercises for Women with Prolapse, is also a good reference. If you haven’t done Yoga or Pilates in the past, we recommend taking a class so you can make sure you are using best practices to reduce the chance of potential injury. The pelvic floor is getting quite a bit of healthy press these days, so consider emailing your instructor or pulling them aside after class to mention your interest in those types of exercises – – odds are you are not the only one.
- Consider hormone replacement therapy. As estrogen levels dip, so does vaginal tone, exacerbating any potential for incontinence. If you’re experiencing symptoms of menopause – and urinary incontinence is one of them – speak with your OB/GYN about whether hormone replacement therapy may be part of the solution.