The wee problem women should talk about

First up, it’s really important to know that there are specialist women’s health physiotherapists who work in the area of incontinence and there’s absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. Frequently this issue goes untreated because women are embarrassed, or they think it’s normal after having children, or they simply don’t know what to do about it – but help is out there. 

Urinary incontinence is more common than you might think. Around 48% of women will experience some degree of incontinence in the third trimester in their first pregnancy, research says. In subsequent pregnancies, the rate of some degree of incontinence goes up to 85%.

Stats also suggest that 92% of women suffering from some degree of incontinence 12 weeks after delivering a child will still be incontinent 5 years after delivery – if they don’t seek professional help. This statistic is fairly consistent with what I see clinically. It is common to hear women dismissing regular small leaks as ‘just one of those things’ that they think is part of life after having children.

The point of these statistics is not to scare you, but to simply help you see how common it is to have some issues with your continence mechanism after having children, and how important it is that you see a professional who specialises in this area if you need help.

In Australia, women who give birth don’t routinely see a women’s health physiotherapist to ensure they are recovering as best they can after delivery. As well, women are not routinely encouraged to have a pelvic floor examination with a physio to make sure they know how to do a proper pelvic floor contraction or to make sure their muscles are recovering after having stitches.

Unfortunately, this means in lots of cases, women are missing the chance to have early intervention treatment for prolapses or other issues because they don’t have any symptoms or don’t recognise them. From my experience, I believe it’s better to work with someone to help fix or manage any prolapse risk before it’s an issue.

Prolapse symptoms may include:

  • Back pain
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • A feeling of “heaviness” in the vagina
  • Urinary incontinence

While we’re talking about all things bladder it’s really important to note that you should not leak urine during exercise. Leaking urine when you are exercising can indicate many things including poor technique which could lead to injury (or worsening of prolapses). It also indicates that your pelvic floor is not strong enough to resist the pressures and loads generated during an exercise and this can lead to other gynaecological issues.

When it comes to incontinence, remember:

  • You don’t have to accept incontinence as part of life.
  • If you’re experiencing incontinence during pregnancy or after giving birth, consider consulting a women’s health physiotherapist
  • It is not “normal” to leak urine during exercise. If you are, the exercise is too difficult for you to control and you could consider consulting a women’s health physiotherapist, or at check your technique and reduce weights/load where possible

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