Stress incontinence is very common in pregnancy & postpartum, but it’s not normal! As a Women’s Health Expert & Advocate, an important role of mine is to educate you that stress incontinence is treatable & preventable. So if you are experiencing stress incontinence after having your baby, let me reassure you that you will kick this leakage to the curb once you implement the below strategies. It won’t happen over night, but it will happen 😉
Before we get into the management, we need to understand what stress incontinence is:
- Bladder leakage when you sneeze, cough, run, jump or do anything that creates increased pressure in your abdomen.
- Commonly caused by weak pelvic floor muscles or muscles that are not working as they should.
- You may experience it at the end of a workout when your pelvic floor muscles have fatigued.
- It’s falsely advertised on television that LBL (light bladder leakage) is normal & pads are the only answer – this is a serious marketing ploy.
How Do You Treat Stress Incontinence?
1. Pelvic Floor Exercises
- There is evidence that pelvic floor exercises treat & prevent stress incontinence postpartum.
- The key is learning how to do your pelvic floor exercises correctly. To help you achieve this download my FREE Pelvic Floor Guide.
- The fast contractions mentioned in the guide are pivotal in resolving stress incontinence, as the muscles need to react quickly when we sneeze/cough etc.
- To refresh your memory- fast contractions involves you switching your pelvic floor muscles on and off quickly 10 times. You need to make sure you lift your muscles to their maximum potential & then completely relax the muscles.
- Commit to doing your pelvic floor exercises 3 x day to increase their strength. One easy way to fit your exercises into your day is doing them when you are feeding bubs.
2. The Knack
- This technique will be your best friend! The Knack is a conscious pelvic floor contraction before you do anything that causes leakage, like sneeze, cough, lift or jump.
- By doing this religiously, it eventually retrains your pelvic floor to contract automatically when you sneeze/cough so you don’t leak. Yesss!
3. Activity Modification
Avoid high impact exercise or any exercise that causes leakage e.g. star jumps, skipping, burpees, jump squats/lunges, running or sports like netball.
- I know this might seem like hell for some mums who are right into their personal training or cross fit, but one thing is for sure – you will do more damage if you continue high impact exercise or lifting heavy weights. It will weaken your pelvic floor further, worsening your leakage.
- Avoiding or reducing high impact exercise is not a forever strategy, it’s just for while you strengthen your pelvic floor.
- Do low impact (non-aggravating) exercise instead like walking, swimming, stationary bike, Pilates & yoga.
Avoid other aggravating activities e.g. lifting or jumping on the trampoline:
- I realise a lot of mamas can’t always avoid lifting their own children. But where you can, try to lift them less – get your partner to put bubs into their cot at night and transfer them in & out of the high chair when they are home. If you have a toddler, encourage them to be independent where you can & sit down with them on the ground or the couch for cuddles.
4. Pelvic Floor Support
- Inserting a tampon before you exercise can give your bladder extra support & can help stress incontinence.
- This is only a short-term strategy while you are strengthening your pelvic floor.
5. Bladder Health
- Emptying your bladder before exercise is fine to do, but it is not the solution. You see, we never completely empty our bladder, so a small amount of urine can still leak under pressure.
- Don’t restrict your fluids. You should be drinking 2L of water a day- more if you are exercising or breastfeeding. Restricting your fluids can irritate your bladder making symptoms worse.
6. Bowel Health
- Constipation & straining can weaken pelvic floor muscles, contributing to stress incontinence. This is important to manage with dietary & lifestyle changes. More info on bowel health is coming your way.
7. Weight Loss
- This can be a difficult area for many mums who struggle to shift excess ‘baby weight’. From a pelvic floor perspective, increased body weight places more pressure on the muscles.
- Weight loss is primarily about nutrition, so looking at what you eat is the first place to start. Cut out junk & processed food, and increase wholefoods like vegetables & fruit. For more info on weight loss stay tuned for an upcoming post.
- Seeing a Nutritionist is a good way to be informed on healthy eating.
8. Reduce Stress
- Like most conditions in life, stress can worsen bladder leakage. To help combat stress, a daily meditation/mindfulness practise is very effective.
- Find an activity that relaxes you & do more of it. Sounds so simple but not enough of us prioritise this.
- Time away from your little ones is important to do for your mental helth.
- Connect with a practitioner such as a psychologist or counsellor. There is a lot to be gained from speaking to a professional about being a mum & coping with this dramatic change in hormones & life.
9. See a Women’s Health Physiotherapist
- If your stress incontinence has not improved over 4-8 weeks with the above strategies, I recommend you see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist. Find out how to work with me here!
I hope this information reassures you that you will be able to jump, skip & run without leakage in the not so distant future. All you need to do is start implementing the above strategies & commit to them. When symptoms resolve, continue your pelvic floor exercises & gradually re-introduce high impact exercise.
If you know other mamas out there with stress incontinence, spread the word so they too can help themselves. We need to support & empower each other by sharing our knowledge. Here’s to #girlpower!