How To Prevent Urinary Incontinence
Incontinence is very common although there is still a massive stigma attached to it, meaning people are not open with talking about it. Studies estimate that around 300 million people worldwide are suffering with some form of incontinence. Many never seek help possibly through embarrassment, lack of confidence and because of the normalcy pad companies embed in your mind that leaks are normal. They are common but definitely not normal.
At Secret Whispers we believe that incontinence would be far less of a problem if we had the proper education taught in high schools of our bodies to prevent future issues. It’s upsetting to think that so many people suffer in silence just because the importance of our pelvic floors is not spoken about enough. Did you know that bladder incontinence can happen to young girls in high school? Especially those who do high impact sport such as gymnastics. You can read an earlier blog that we did on this topic - NICE Guidelines - Teach Girls About Their Pelvic Floor In School
What is urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the loss of control of your bladder and can be noticed by leaking when you sneeze, laugh, cough, jump or lift something heavy or can be as severe as the urge to wee coming so suddenly and strongly that you don’t make it to the toilet on time. The severity can range from a slight loss of control (a few drops of urine) to a complete loss of control where you are leaking from the bladder constantly.
The stigma around urinary incontinence is usually that it’s something to be embarrassed about. But this is not the case, urinary incontinence is your body's way of telling you something isn’t right. Don’t put up with it in silence. For most women they can quickly strengthen their pelvic floor by doing Kegels and using Secret Whispers Kegel Weights
Types of urinary incontinence
There are 4 main types of urinary incontinence:
1. Stress incontinence is the most common type of incontinence which occurs due to a weak pelvic floor. When pressure is put upon the bladder when you lift a heavy object, laugh, cough, sneeze or run your bladder and urethra (urine outlet) are not strong enough to withstand the pressure due to the weak pelvic floor and therefore urine leaks out. Childbirth is the most common cause of stress incontinence and the main treatment is Kegel exercises.
2. Urge incontinence is the second most common type and is referred to as an overreactive bladder. this is when you have the sudden and urgent need to urinate and involuntary leaks before making it to the bathroom. you may also need to urinate urgently often, mostly at night.
3. Overflow incontinence is when your bladder isn’t emptying properly and leaking urine consistently even after emptying your bladder. This consistent dribble is referred to as overflow. The urine being left in the bladder increases the chances of bacteria breeding leading to urinary tract infections (UTI’S)
4. Functional incontinence is when a physical or mental reason stops you from making it to the toilet on time resulting in urine leaks. The reason could be a physical illness like arthritis. Depression and anxiety and alcohol also play a part in functional incontinence.
It is important to know that you can have more than one type of incontinence.
What causes urinary incontinence
There is not a fixed cause of incontinence. It can be caused by a variety of things. There can also be a combination of things which could be making your incontinence worse. Here are some of the main causes for urinary incontinence.
Pregnancy and childbirth.
Surgical removal of the uterus; also called hysterectomy. In women, the bladder and uterus are supported by many of the same muscles and ligaments. Surgery that involves a woman's reproductive system, including removal of the uterus, may damage the supporting pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to incontinence AND increases the chance of pelvic floor prolapse if the pelvic floor is not exercised regularly.
Family history of prolapse.
Menopause - The sudden drop of oestrogen that menopause brings causes incontinence as oestrogen is what helps keep the bladder, pelvic muscles and urethra healthy.
UTI - a urinary tract infection is caused by bacteria entering the urethra. This can irritate the bladder resulting in incontinence.
Weight - being of a higher weight puts more excess pressure on your pelvic floor, causing it to waken which can result in incontinence. The extra weight is also putting extra pressure on the bladder which can also cause incontinence.
Constipation - Straining on the toilet (IBS for example) can cause weakness and overstretching and can be a factor in developing prolapse.
High impact sports - Regular high intensity running is one of the risk factors which can lead to pelvic floor damage.
A weak pelvic floor can cause incontinence as it has less support for your bladder, uterus and bowel.
How to prevent urinary incontinence
Urinary incontinence isn't an inevitable consequence of ageing. If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don't hesitate to see your GP or in an ideal case a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist.
Incontinence isn't always preventable but here are some factors which may decrease your risk of developing incontinence:
Maintaining healthy weight
Practising Pelvic Floor exercises
Avoid caffeine and alcohol (these irritate your bladder)
Eating more fibre
Drink plenty of fluids. Practice good toilet habits (roughly 6 times in 24 hours) AND always use a stool for doing a poo.
Yes, a form of behaviour therapy, bladder training can be effective in treating incontinence. This includes increasing the amount of time between trips to the toilet and increasing the amount of fluid your bladder can hold.
It requires you to follow a fixed toilet schedule whether you feel the urge to urinate or not. When you find yourself needing to urinate before your designated time you should use urge suppression techniques like Kegels. So, think twice about those ‘Just in case wees’ that you do before you leave the house. You are training your brain that your bladder can only hold a small amount. Be the boss of your bladder!
Surgery for incontinence
There are various options including a procedure known as a Colposuspension. This is where your bladder is lifted and stitched into this lifted position.
Sling surgery where a sling of tissue is used to support the bladder.
Always do your own research and remember that surgery is not a quick fix option. Know the risks involved and exactly what the procedure is and how it will be carried out.
Remember that the NICE guidelines state that ‘Women with stress or mixed urinary incontinence are offered a supervised pelvic floor muscle training programme of at least 3 months' duration as first-line treatment.¹
How to improve incontinence
Many people who suffer from incontinence often follow some self-help tips and changes in lifestyle choices in order to reduce their symptoms. There are several factors which help improve incontinence which are in your control. Small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference
Foods and drinks which irritate the bladder:
Acidic fruits( lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits)
Try reducing your consumption of these and especially before bed.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
If you’re a woman who's over the age of 14, you should be doing your Pelvic Floor exercises (Kegels). Kegels are exercises which are clinically proven as an effective nonsurgical treatment for weak pelvic floors.
They consist of repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor. Aim for 10 Slow Kegels and 10 Fast Kegels 2 to 3 times a day. Get in the habit of incorporating them at meal times and brushing your teeth. They can improve your pelvic floor health, helps with incontinence, treat prolapses and improve sexual function. Better orgasms! Now who doesn’t want that?
For just 15 minutes a day, some women will see results in just a few weeks, where other women it can take longer. Use Pelvic Floor Exercise Weights. Our multi award winning weights are really simple to use and can get results in just 15 minutes a day. They are recommended by pelvic floor physios and, gynaecologists, doctors, nurses and of course by the women who use them.
Remember that all our body’s are different, just because someone started Kegels at the same time as you and sees results before you, doesn't mean they are not working for you. The Key to results is consistency. Doing them every day. Your pelvic floor is just a muscle like any other and needs exercised.
If you’d like to learn more about incontinence or our Kegels, read out blogs
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