I think it’s something we should talk about.
Stress incontinence basically means you wet yourself when you cough, sneeze, laugh, run, jump, (or, when my stress incontinence was at its worst, simply step off a kerb).
I apologise for the TMI nature of this post – but I don’t apologise for putting the subject out there.
How many of us sort of pretend that we never really wanted to run or jump anyway – rather than ‘admit’ that we’ll wet ourselves if we do? And what does that do for our own health, and having fun with our kids and grandkids (or having fun without our kids and grandkids), and for people’s perceptions of what women can or should be doing?
It’s an extremely common side-effect of childbirth – something of a design fault there I think. Mine started when I had my first child, got worse when I had fibroids, and improved (but didn’t disappear completely) when I had my hysterectomy.
It’s the single thing most likely to prevent otherwise healthy women from exercising. And not just exercising – it generally stops us being able to run around like giddy kippers.
This is how the NHS suggests we deal with it.
- Pelvic floor exercises. (All together now…) The NHS recommends 8 muscle contractions, 3 times a day, for at least 3 months. Has ANYONE in the history of womankind ever remembered to do their pelvic floor exercises??
- Stop smoking – smoking leads to coughing, coughing leads to stress incontinence. This is just one of many good reasons for giving up smoking.
- Do the right exercises. Don’t do high-impact exercise. Ah. Here I have a problem. Stress incontinence is preventing a lot of women from exercising – telling them not to exercise is missing the point. Pilates is fine – but some of us want to do more than that.
- Avoid lifting. This got me quite cross. It goes on: if you do need to lift something, like children or shopping (because, let’s face it, those are the only things a woman could possibly actually need to lift…) then tighten your pelvic floor muscles before and during the lift. Really? Does all that tightening only work if you’re lifting kids or shopping? Here’s a thought – whenever and whatever you need to lift, tighten your pelvic floor muscles before and during the lift. In my normal life, just in the last week, I’ve needed to lift a large bag of compost, a toilet (two-person lift), a lawn mower, a flat-packed kitchen cabinet, and a printer. And yes, a couple of bags of shopping. But no children. Avoid lifting? Ridiculous.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Treat constipation promptly.
- Reduce caffeine (it can irritate the bladder).
- Reduce alcohol (it’s a diuretic).
- Get the amount of water you drink just right – too much and you’ll have a full bladder, too little and your urine will be strong and will irritate, and over time your bladder capacity will reduce.
- Avoid spicy or acidic foods.
The MOST important thing is not to let it stop you doing what you want to do. Do what you gotta do. Wear what you gotta wear.
I let it stop me for 29 years. 29 years when I could have been running and jumping and generally being a giddy kipper.
If you know someone who might be suffering from stress incontinence, please share this with them. Let’s start talking about it.
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