Post-baby bladder weakness: don't suffer in silence

You can conquer incontinence after pregnancy!

bathroom
dzuiderwegGetty Images

If you find urine leaks from your bladder when you cough, sneeze, laugh or lift something, you are not alone. A third of women suffer from some form of bladder weakness in the UK, making it more common than hay fever. Despite this, a lot of people are still too embarrassed to talk about it.

Fitness and pelvic floor expert Jane Wake says our reluctance to talk about it is putting our mental and physical health at risk. She is working to change our attitude towards this subject and bring bladder control into the spotlight.

Wake tells us that in France, women automatically get physiotherapy to treat any issues associated with bladder weakness after childbirth. 'It's just an open fact that is out there and generally talked about. Women from other countries have told me that it's just something that you know – it is passed down from one generation to women to another: you do your pelvic floor exercises or else!'

How does pregnancy affect your pelvic floor?

The womb and pelvic floor are in such close proximity that a growing foetus is always going to put pressure on the pelvic floor. As the baby gets heavy, this weighs down on the pelvic floor. Combine this with the physical trauma of a natural labour and it's really being put under pressure; it's no wonder bladder control is so often an issue after pregnancy. It affects some women more than others and, of course, having a strong pelvic floor in the first place will help.

The womb and pelvic floor are in such close proximity that a growing foetus is always going to put pressure on the pelvic floor.

It's something 24-year-old Stephanie from East Sussex is all too aware of. She started having issues at just 19 years old after giving birth to her first son.

'Before I had my children, I was perfectly fine and in good health. I got pregnant with my first son when I was eighteen. I was 19 when I had him and it was after the pregnancy that my problems started.' It was after the birth that the incontinence started. But embarrassed with a condition she felt she was too young to have, Stephanie kept quiet about it for almost two years.

'Eventually I went to my GP who referred me to a physiotherapist who did an internal exam.' It was during this examination that Stephanie was told her pelvic floor muscles were so weak, she'd likely need surgery, in the form of a vaginal mesh implant – a controversial procedure which has been in the news recently because of the number of women who claim painful permanent side effects have been caused by these devices.



What are the side effects of incontinence?

The problem can affect women's confidence, too, with many admitting that they go out less often, for fear of an embarrassing accident.

For the same reason, lots of women avoid exercising (which can make matters worse as being overweight will exacerbate the issue).

Rather than talk to their GP about it, some resort to drinking less water overall, which is quite damaging as it causes dehydration but also because it will reduce the capacity of your bladder in the long run.



How can your GP treat incontinence?

Your GP will be able to refer you to a women's health physiotherapist, who will help you with your pelvic floor muscle training. They can also test you to make sure that you don't have an underlying urinary tract infection (UTI) that might be causing or contributing to the problem.

And even if you haven't had a baby, you can benefit from working on your pelvic floor strength. In fact, as you get older, it becomes more and more important as incontinence in the elderly is one of the most common reasons to be referred/admitted to a care home.



Are there alternative treatments for incontinence?

A pelvic floor exercise programme supervised by a women's health physiotherapist will resolve incontinence in the majority of women but there are other options available for unresolved or severe symptoms. These include the use of electrical impulses to contract the pelvic floor muscles. A tampon-sized probe is usually inserted into the vagina to achieve this but a new product, showing high success rates, stimulates and exercises the pelvic floor muscles from the outside. The Innovo is an electric impulse machine built into a pair of shorts, so you simply put them on and press a button.

Stephanie took part in a trial of this treatment and saw an improvement after using it for half an hour a day for a few weeks. Within a few months, she felt she was almost completely back to normal. She says: 'The machine completely changed my quality of life. If I can stop just one more woman suffering in silence, I know I've done the right thing by talking about it.'



How do I make my pelvic floor stronger?

Not everyone will be able to try the machine, but don't despair, there plenty of exercises you can try at home that will help to restore control down there. Wake recommends:

• Start by visualising

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that attach to your tailbone at the back and your pubic bone at the front. Think of it like a hammock strung between these two points. It also attaches to the sit bones - these are the bones at the base of the pelvis - if you are seated now, grab a hold of your butt cheek, pull it out the way and then feel the bone underneath - these are your sit bones.

• Think about farts

Imagine pulling the sides of your hammock out and attaching it to these two points - you end up with a diamond shape base to your pelvis - this is our pelvic floor. We are often told to connect to it by thinking about stopping a wee. A better way is to first of all imagine stopping a fart from your back passage, then stopping a wee from the front then pulling these two points in and up together. If you also imagine drawing the sit bones in from the sides, you'll get a deeper more thorough contraction of the pelvic floor. Doing this before you have issues will mean you are able to connect to it better when and if you do get problems.

• Lift it up

A healthy muscle however is one that not only has good strength but also length and balance. So as well as pulling the muscle up you have to think about letting it relax - a good way to do this is to imagine pulling it up through 5 floors - like a lift going up. Always go back down through the floors before you lift up again.



Last updated: 18-09-19

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Mother and baby
У нашей компании классный веб сайт с информацией про книжный интернет-магазин.
Наш полезный сайт на тематику препараты для повышения потенции http://cialis-viagra.com.ua
заменитель виагры