Help! My Bladder Leaks When I Exercise!
It’s estimated that 30 per cent of women will experience some form of bladder leakage after birth, particularly when exercising. But this doesn’t mean that urinary incontinence should be accepted as a normal consequence of having a baby.
According to Women’s Heath Queensland Wide, specialists in women’s health across the lifespan, in many cases bladder leakage can be easily treated.
“Resuming exercise is important for new mums and provides numerous benefits but it can also trigger bladder leakage,” it says.
“The most common form is stress incontinence, characterised by the loss of small amounts of urine during activities that increase abdominal pressure such as sneezing, coughing or during physical exercise.
“At the gym you may notice it when you lift weights, do abdominal crunches or any activities that involve running or jumping.”
Bladder Leakage After Having A Baby
How did I get stress incontinence?
It most often results from weakened pelvic floor muscles. During pregnancy, hormonal changes and the extra weight of the baby can weaken these muscles.
“In addition, they can also be weakened during childbirth, particularly if there is a prolonged second stage of labour, if the baby is bigger than 4kg or if instruments are used during delivery.”
Do I have to wear a pad from now on?
While common, urinary incontinence shouldn’t be accepted as just one of the post-birth thing, in fact many cases it can be easily treated if you visit your doctor instead of continuing to rely on pads.
The most common form of treatment is pelvic floor exercises which are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles through actively tightening and lifting them at intervals.
Many women benefit from seeing a physiotherapist with a special interest in the pelvic floor to help them perform the exercises properly.
What exactly is my pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is made up of a layer of muscles stretching like a tight hammock from the pubic bone in the front, to the base of the spine.
Your pelvic floor supports your bladder, vagina, uterus and bowel and is very important for bladder and bowel control. Your pelvic floor muscles also play an important role in sexual pleasure.
What workouts can I do to reduce stress on my pelvic floor?
- Using a stationary bike, but not a spin class.
- Walking rather than running on a treadmill.
- Modify weight training with seated exercises and lighter weights.
- Yoga and Pilates classes are all ideal.
For more pelvic floor exercises that are safe see our tips on how to look after your pelvic floor.
How can I exercise my pelvic floor muscles?
1. Sit forwards on your chair and place your feet and knees shoulder width apart. Relax your stomach, chest and leg muscles. Breathe normally.
2. Close your eyes and imagine that you want to stop yourself passing wind or urine. The muscles that you use to do this are the pelvic floor muscles.
3. Now squeeze or contract these muscles tightly around your back and front passages and slowly lift your pelvic floor using these muscles. Imagine your muscles are lifts and squeeze upwards. Hold the contraction as firmly as you can for as long as you are comfortable, then release.
4. Repeat this squeeze and lift movement as many times as you can before the muscles tire.
It is important that you single out your pelvic floor muscles in this exercise program – this means no tightening of the muscles in your thighs or buttocks and no movement of your back.
TIP: Do not bear down or strain during these exercises. Breathe normally and naturally while contracting your muscles. It is useful to count aloud if you find yourself holding your breath.
Source: Women’s Health Queensland Wide is made up of a specialist team of health professionals that provide coaching, support and information to women of all ages and at all stages of their health journey.