There are many different types of incontinence. Stress incontinence and urge incontinence are the two types that I see most often in the women that I work with. So how do you know you have it? Which type do you have? And what should you do about it? Read on to learn more...
What is Stress Incontinence?
Stress Incontinence is where you leak because there is a sudden increase in your abdominal pressure, for example when you are running, jumping, laughing, coughing or sneezing. This increase in pressure suddenly forces you to contract your pelvic floor to stop wee escaping your bladder. However, if your muscle fibres are not strong enough to contract quickly enough, a small amount of urine will escape.
This type of incontinence is very common with women who have had children. Carrying a baby puts nearly 9 months of additional pressure on the pelvic floor and then giving birth often causes soft tissue damage to the area, leaving many women with issues that if not corrected, slowly get worse with age, particularly through the menopause.
What is Urge Incontinence?
Urge incontinence is where you will suddenly feel the urge to go for a wee. Often people with urge incontinence will find they get this feeling in a similar location each time. And often if they do no go to the toilet that that moment, they are unable to hold in their wee.
Am I incontinent?
If you leak wee at any time, even if it is only a little bit and only at certain moments, you are still incontinent and need to do something about it to stop it worsening. That includes women who only leak when they have run a long distance. If you are experiencing issues now and you have not been through the menopause, you are likely to have much worse symptoms when you go through the menopause and your oestrogen production drops. Strengthening your pelvic floor before the menopause is a lot easier than doing it after.
What should I do about my incontinence? Treatment
Treatment for Stress Incontinence - you need to focus on strengthening your pelvic floor.
Stage 1: make sure you are actually able to contract your pelvic floor. To get the feeling you contract your muscles as if you are stopping yourself going for a wee and stopping yourself going for a poo. You can do these separately or at the same time. This contraction is called a Kegel exercise and is where everybody needs to start on their pelvic floor strengthening journey. If you are unsure whether you are able to contract your pelvic floor effectively, it might be worth booking in to see a Women's Health Physio who can assess you and help you work out how to practice this.
Stage 2: once you have mastered this basic contraction, the next step is to build it up to be strong enough to withstand exercise and movement. Kegel exercises are great for getting the feeling of the pelvic floor contraction, but all they do is create a strong pelvic floor when you are stationary. When real life comes into play, you can’t always withstand those high-pressure moments. This is where I help a lot of women through my Holistic Core Restore® programme. This is a programme that has been specifically designed to get women back into movement. So many women give up exercising after having children because they are worried about leaking. Now it is true to say that some high impact exercises such as running will weaken the pelvic floor so should be kept to a minimum/avoided while weaknesses exist, but that doesn’t have to be permanent. A little effort and knowledge, mixed with lifestyle changes can turn things around and get women building strong, confident bodies for life. Bodies that can do any daily task without fear of leaking and doing the exercises that they loved doing before they had children.
Treatment for Urge Incontinence - 2 steps:
1) Train your pelvic floor to be stronger (as with the Stress Incontinence training stages 1 and 2 above). Knowing that you have the control of your pelvic floor is key here.
2) Urge incontinence is usually a psychological issue. People associate certain locations with needing a wee. It can all stem back to when we were children and our parents made us go to the toilet before we left the house, even when we didn’t need to go. We ingrain this pattern of behaviour into our psyche and it transfers into adulthood. A very common time for this to happen is when someone puts their key in their front door.
Because this is a psychological issue you need to focus on retraining your brain. So once you are happy you have a strong pelvic floor that you have control over, you need to practice going to the places where this happens to you and practice trying to take your mind off it. Try counting down from 100 in 7’s. You can also try delaying also by slightly longer time periods each time, building up your confidence not to go for a wee very slowly.
If you would like my help with strengthening your pelvic floor and overcoming any of the issues above, please contact me: email Erica@sussexfitness.co.uk or tel 07918 641672. For details of my upcoming group courses in Sussex please see here.