I remember there being a lot of chat within my friendship group after birth (especially with our second kids) around the topic of accidental wees and little leaks when sneezing or laughing. I just smiled along and never really paid it much attention to be honest as luckily I wasn't a part of that club. You see, despite two natural births and a few delivery tears here and there, I managed to avoid this occurrence. I guess smugly I put it down to the fact that I practice yoga regularly and hoped that had saved me.
That said, on the eve of my last few months as a thirty-something female, I seem to have unwillingly joined the little leak club. Yes, I know this is extra funny because my surname is Leek, so go ahead, have your giggles.
The weird thing is, it didn't happen gradually, it just happened quick and fast. Mainly during exercise, I would feel this rush down under, and a small release of some unknown liquid! Alarm bells ringing majorly simultaneously. Last week I was skiing and suddenly while gliding down the piste at 3000m I felt a trickle all the way down my leg. I mean, I know it's a thrilling sport, but wetting myself about it still seemed a little extreme!
So, without letting things really escalate any further, I decided to investigate "Why is it happening and what can I do to stop it!!"
Why do woman leak?
Urinary incontinence, or urine leakage, is a common issue that can occur especially after giving birth. During pregnancy and childbirth, our muscles and tissues in the pelvic floor that support the bladder, uterus, and rectum can become stretched, weakened, or damaged, leading to various types of urinary incontinence, including stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
Stress incontinence occurs when pressure is placed on the bladder, such as during coughing, sneezing, or exercise, causing urine to leak - very often caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles. Urge incontinence, on the other hand, occurs when there is a sudden, intense urge to urinate that cannot be controlled. This can be caused by overactive bladder muscles or nerve damage.
In addition to childbirth, other factors that can contribute to urinary incontinence include hormonal changes, aging (EEEEKKKKK it's happeneing!!!), obesity, chronic coughing, and certain medical conditions.
So, what can we do ladies?
Unfortunately, I feel like many of the ways we can avoid leaking are preventative rather than things we can do now. If I had fully known this, I would have told my thirty-year-old self to get herself a kegel toy and commit to a ritual of daily squeezes before breakfast. Unfortunately, I didn't. So, now what? Can I turn back time to put and end to my leaky club membership?
Well, here, are some basic things I'm gonna try...
Strenghten my PF: A couple of basic exercises, also known as kegels, can strengthen the muscles that support the bladder and urethra. So, each day, this will be my routine:
1. Draw up and tighten the muscles I would use to stop urinating
2. Hold for 10 seconds
3. Relax everything
4. Repeat 10 times
I might even invest in a Kegel8 but just trawling my way through the reviews at the moment.
Keep trim: It seems a pretty obvious notion that being overweight can put extra pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles, increasing the risk of accidental wee. Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise I assume can really help.
Practice good bathroom habits: Going to the bathroom frequently and emptying the bladder completely can help reduce the risk of accidental wee. Avoid holding urine for long periods of time and empty the bladder before going to bed. Straining to have a bowel movement (constipation) can also weaken the pelvic floor muscles, which can contribute to urinary incontinence. Eating a high-fibre diet and drinking lots of water daily can help prevent constipation.
Elasticated waists are us: Another obvious one - tight clothing or thongs can put pressure on the bladder and contribute to urinary incontinence. So, let's bin the skinny jeans for a few days and opt for elasticated waisted alternatives more! Wearing loose-fitting clothing and underwear made from breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen could be a game changer.
Easy on the caffeine and booze: Certain foods and drinks, such as caffeine, alcohol, and spicy or acidic foods, can irritate the bladder and increase the risk of accidental wee. I don't drink caffeine, so I'm safe here, but the alcohol and spicy foods could be slashed a little I reckon, even though I love wine and chilli a lot.
Let's do this
Okay, so my mission to better pelvic health starts here. I'm going to journal my journey and will report back in a month with some updates!!! Wish me luck!
Disclosure - If these measures do not improve your symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause of your urinary incontinence and to explore additional treatment options.