We Don't Like to Talk About It- Stress Incontinence

If you leak urine when you laugh, cough, sneeze, or exercise, this is stress incontinence and it's really common.  If you have it, you may be too embarrassed to seek help.  Fortunately there is much that you can do to help yourself.

When I was teaching pre-natal yoga, I always emphasised to 'my'  mums-to-be the importance of doing their pelvic floor exercise, not only before the birth but afterwards too, in order to avoid problems further down the line.  The reason for this is that pregnancy is one of the main causes of weakened pelvic floor and stress incontinence.  The lack of oestrogen at menopause may also weaken the pelvic floor.  The good news is that it's never too late to start strengthening your pelvic floor.  Try the following exercise-

Sit on a rolled up blanket or cushion with the soles of your feet together.  When you look down at your legs they will be in a diamond shape.  For this exercise the feet represent your pubic bone, your knees represent your hip points and your tailbone is your actual tailbone. Spend a minute tuning into your breath then breathe in and as you breathe out isometrically draw your feet, knees and tailbone together (this means that although there is a 'squeezing' together these points do not actually move).  You should be able to feel a 'lift' of your pelvic floor.  Now breathe in and let everything relax.  Repeat 9 more times.  Repeat this exercise daily.

You could also try yoga.  In many yoga poses, in particular standing poses, we engage the 'root lock', mula banda, which is in effect the pelvic floor.  Please see 'Making sense of the bandas'.

It is not only pregnancy that can  put pressure on the pelvic floor and your bladder- if you carry weight around your middle this will.  But did you know that exercise releases adiponectin which moves fat away from your middle to less harmful areas. 

Constipation can also create pressure on your pelvic floor and bladder so avoid this by making sure your diet includes plenty of fibre and drink plenty to swell that fibre and keep things moving.  

As for other dietary advice, make sure your diet includes magnesium rich foods (nuts, seeds, bananas etc) as magnesium helps muscle function and can reduce bladder spasms that lead to stress incontinence.  You might also want to consider having an epsom salt bath a couple of times a week to absorb some calcium through your skin.  Please see 'Been out Christmas shopping? Restore with an epsom salt bath'.

Make sure you have enough vitamin D as deficiency is linked to stress incontinence.  A good source for vegans is mushrooms or you can get your daily vitamin D by 10 minutes of sun exposure daily without protection (no more please for the sake of sun safety!!).  Please see 'Bring on the sun-Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin

Avoid caffeine which can irritate the bladder.

You could also try 'bladder training' - delaying urination for 10-15 minutes after you feel the urge.  When you do 'go' make sure you empty your bladder completely so hang on in there for a minute or so more.  

Hope this helps.  

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