If you’re a human being, you have a pelvic floor. Like any other muscle in the body, it’s important to keep this one in shape. For women in particular, it is vital. This is because the pelvic floor holds up all of our reproductive organs, along with our bladder. Weak pelvic floor (or kegel) muscles can lead to incontinence. There are also other reasons why a woman might experience incontinence but there’s no reason to lose hope! We review some of the types, causes and treatments for this frustrating condition.
What You May Already Know About Incontinence
Urinary Incontinence is the inability to control the release of urine from the bladder. This is a common and often embarrassing problem for many women. The severity can range from occasionally leaking small amounts of urine, leaking urine frequently or leaking large amounts of urine. Incontinence can affect women of all ages and should be a subject to discuss with your doctor. In most cases, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can help or even solve the problem.
Some Things You May Not Know About Incontinence
Types of Urinary Incontinence
Stress Incontinence: This is peeing when you sneeze, laugh, run or jump. It doesn’t necessarily feel like you HAVE to pee, it just…happens.
Urge Incontinence: This is a strong or sudden urge to pee–also known as an overactive bladder. You may make it to the restroom and then some days, you may not.
Mixed Incontinence: This is a combination of symptoms of both Stress and Urge Incontinence.
Overflow Incontinence: This is more of a steady leak. This type of incontinence may occur in people with damage to their bladder, a blocked urethra, or nerve damage due to diabetes, multiple sclerosis or a spinal cord injury.
Causes of Incontinence
There are various causes of urinary incontinence. Some are easier to treat than others and there may be multiple causes involved such as:
Pregnancy, Childbirth, Surgery, and Aging: For anyone who has given birth or is over the age of 40, this may come as no surprise. The trauma of childbirth and the weakening of muscles as we age are factors.
Urinary Tract Infection
Incontinence can sometimes be a side effect of blood pressure medications, diuretics, some anti-depressants and, occasionally, sleeping pills. If you suspect your medication is causing your incontinence, speak to your doctor.
Polyps or bladder stones: Other symptoms might include blood in the urine or abnormally dark urine, pelvic pain, penile or scrotal pain in males, getting up at night to urinate, and urination that stops and starts while voiding. If there is blood in your urine, see your doctor!
Fistula: Dear god, what is that? A fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum, or between the vagina and bladder. This could be caused by pelvic surgery, radiation treatment, advanced cancer of the pelvis, or in rare cases, a prolonged, obstructed labor.
Some Things Available to Help Treat Incontinence
Drink fewer fluids and limit intake of caffeine
Kegel Exercises: If you’re not sure how, we can help with some basic instructions. Trying a kegel device can also help you become better aware of what muscles to use and serve as a visual reminder to exercise on a regular basis.
Physical Therapy: Specifically, a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. Not sure what this is? The Pelvic Guru can help.
Bladder Training: This is a practice of trying to lengthen the amount of time between bathroom trips and usually takes about 3-12 weeks to be effective.
Pessaries: A pessary is a rubber device that is inserted into the vagina to support the urethra and pinch it closed. This is something your doctor would recommend and may be used only in the case of Pelvic Organ Prolapse.
Medications: Some medications can increase pelvic muscle strength and help control bladder contractions. Your medical provider would recommend the right one for you, if necessary.
Bulking Agents: Bulking agents are injected in the tissues around the urethra to add bulk and narrow the urethra to decrease leakage.
Surgery: Two surgical options are available when other options are ineffective. Sling Procedures and Bladder Neck Suspension Procedure (Colposuspension) both help support the urethra and bladder to avoid sagging.
Kegel Products That Can Help With Incontinence
Innovation in products that help resolve incontinence and improve pelvic floor strength are on the rise. Fortunately, there is more research and an increase of vocalizing female sexual health problems. As a result, kegel products are regularly improving to provide more anatomically-correct and useful solutions.
It can be a bit intimidating to try to select a kegel exerciser that is right for you. Luckily, we’ve tried to make it easier with an overview on the different types and styles, as well as who they might be better for. Now go forth, free from leaking, free from changing underwear and free from embarrassment!