Updated: Apr 20, 2021
The findings in this article (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6339553/About-half-women-age-50-incontinence-embarrassed-speak-doctor.html) demonstrate why I do what I do and why I am very passionate about helping women have awareness around symptoms, knowledge of their bodies, and control over the direction of their health! It’s so easy to keep plugging away and ignoring things that feel “off” or accepting difficulties as “normal” because “I am getting older” or “I had a baby” or any of the other inserts you can use. This article specifically talks about women 50 or older but it applies to ALL women at any stage. Incontinence (leaking urine when you don’t want to, needing to go to the bathroom more often, or feeling extreme sudden urges to urinate) is VERY common in peri-menopausal women, postpartum women, and athletes at any age - but can affect anyone. And it’s something that is often not reported because we either whisper about it or just think it’s a "normal" part of life. Here are my favorite points from the article to drive home:
1. Incontinence often leads to exercise or activity avoidance. So true, but so upsetting because many women avoid things they LOVE because of fear. We need to be able to freely exercise to run around after our kids, to build healthy bones and a healthy body, and to be able to do what we love whether it’s running, dancing, jumping, or anything else. If you start to avoid certain exercises after having a baby, the stage is set up to not have your full strength and power as you get older......and you will be more likely to fall into the category of women this article is targeting.
2. Incontinence is only ONE of the potential symptoms of an underlying pelvic/core dysfunction. The number is closer to 75% of women having some form of pelvic dysfunction at some point in their life: whether it be incontinence, pain, diastasis recti, or prolapse.
3. “We hope these findings will help spur conversations between women and their healthcare providers, so that activities aren't limited.” Yesssss! Let’s start discussing things we normally whisper about so we realize we’re not alone and can find a path to improvement!
4. I love that the article brings awareness to “kegel” exercises, but I don’t like the simple description of “clench and release exercise”. This is not often the answer because our pelvic floor does so much more than that! It is actually a part of our “core system” and does have an important function of controlling any exits in our pelvis (in both women and men), but also is a support structure, contributes to our balance, helps our hip stability, helps to control our posture and lift away from the ground, and gives us power. It is an often overlooked part of our core. The system of muscles doesn’t just clench and release - it lifts and elevates. And also, although we have some conscious control, most of it’s work is involuntary (we should not have to stop and think about what our pelvic floor is doing with every move we make)....so unless “kegel" work is then integrated into movement, we’re missing the mark and often turns out to be unsuccessful. And not to mention that kegels can make the problem worse in some women, so getting evaluated is really important to find a solution for your individual body.
Ladies, incontinence does NOT have to be an “inevitable” part of having a baby or aging. It’s your body telling you that there’s something going on and an underlying dysfunction that actually CAN BE CHANGED! It is very common and can be embarrassing and frustrating, so you are not alone in any of those feelings. And if you do you suffer with incontinence it does not mean that you are doing anything wrong, that you are weak, or that you have failed in some way. It is what it is, and just being aware of the reasons why and getting to the root causes can, and will, help you to overcome it :-) Addressing it will give you the ability to have an active life going forward. Don’t wait!
Check out video below for considerations of a proper pelvic floor contraction. An important note about the instructions in this video: Moving with the breath in this way is just one of many pelvic floor type of contractions and exercises. It helps your body reconnect to an involuntary pattern that we have in our core system - the piston type of action that is described in more detail in a previous blog post. You are stable on both your inhale and exhale and have some conscious control of your pelvic floor with and without the deliberate inhale and exhale. You don't always have to slow things down in this way, but the important thing to note is the squeeze and LIFT action of the pelvic floor.