One in three of us puts up with embarrassing bladder leaks. Why are we suffering in silence? And what can we do about it?
You’re on a night out with your pals and one of them says something that sends you into fits of giggles. Next thing, you’re laughing hysterically and a little bit of pee escapes.
It’s not the first time it’s happened.
These days you avoid running and you wouldn’t dream of bouncing on the trampoline with your kids. But you haven’t been to the doctor about it, or confided in your friends.
If this is you, then you are not alone.
Latest figures show that one in three of us suffers from pelvic-floor disorders. But it’s not just older women and those who’ve given birth who experience bladder leaks — 64 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds have them too.
Worse still, women take over a year to admit to themselves that they have a problem and even then they may not tell others.
We think it’s time to change that.
Dr Anita Mitra, AKA The Gynae Geek, believes we need to break the silence on bladder leaks and make women feel less ashamed.
She says: ‘The more we speak openly, the better, so women don’t feel alone and silenced by something that can be managed. It can be treated and improved — if you want help, it is there.’
When it comes to your pelvic floor, it’s a case of use it or lose it. You need to keep the muscles strong by doing exercises — just like you would for any other body part.
What is the pelvic floor?
It is the muscles that hold everything inside — a bit like a sling that supports your uterus, bladder and bowel. And in its most basic form, it stops these organs from falling out — something that’s known as a prolapse. Unfortunately, the more pressure you put on your pelvic floor, the weaker it gets.
Causes of leaks
It’s no surprise that pregnancy and a growing baby pressing down on your muscles can cause havoc, or that childbirth itself can destroy your pelvic floor, but they are not the only troublemakers.
These days, we’re all more active, and this can also lead to pelvic floor weakness and problems with incontinence.
Different types of incontinence
Stress incontinence — caused by increased pressure through coughing, sneezing, etc.
Urge incontinence — when your bladder is not full, but you feel the urge to go immediately.
What can we do?
Anita says: ‘All teenage girls need to be taught to do their pelvic-floor exercises because prevention is better than cure. If someone has a strong pelvic floor there is less chance of incontinence.
‘We should all be doing simple pelvic-floor exercises. This means squeezing the right muscles — the muscles that you would use to stop midway through passing urine. Check you’re activating the right muscles by putting a finger in your vagina and making sure you can feel it tighten.’
The key is to incorporate your pelvic-floor exercises into your daily routine — do them while you’re taking your morning shower or brushing your teeth at night. Then do extra squeezes whenever you can — as you’re waiting for your coffee or stuck at traffic lights.
Remember, it’s never too late to start to do your pelvic-floor exercises. It might not cure your problem, but it will improve your symptoms.
Edited by Zoe Pinks
Dr Anita Mitra is an ambassador for Always Discreet. For more information, visit her website gynaegeek.com
HOW TO EXERCISE YOUR PELVIC FLOOR
Every day, do the following:
Long and slow squeezes — Draw up all the muscles at the same time, squeeze, lift and hold for a count of five to 10 seconds. Now let go gently and count to five — this is the all-important rest phase that ensures you do not overtire your muscles. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Short and fast squeezes — Once a day, do a series of 10 short, sharp contractions to help you maintain control when you need to suddenly squeeze or cough. Do these in a rhythmic pattern of squeeze, let go, squeeze, let go.