Picture a group of women sitting around a table, drinking wine or coffee, chatting and laughing. One women gasps and says, “Oops! I think I just peed myself a bit!” Her friends chime in, one by one, and say, “Oh, that happens to me, too, when I (choose one) laugh/run/cough/sneeze.”
The Incontinence Myth
While stress incontinence is rather common, it is not normal. The incontinence myth perpetuates due to ignorance– we believe stress incontinence is an inescapable side effect of pregnancy or menopause. This just is not true. It is not simply part of being a woman that we have to deal with and move on.
Not surprisingly, the manufacturers of feminine hygiene products have found a new market thanks to the incontinence myth. Their products and advertising approach the issue, normalize it, and offer what seems to be a solution. It is, however, merely addressing the symptom of leaking. While these products certainly give women a way to hide their incontinence and carry on with their lives, they do nothing to fix the problem.
Unbelievably, there is a whole market of women’s t-shirts, mugs, and greeting cards to capitalize on the incontinence myth. (Don’t believe me? Check out etsy.) These products want women to buy in to the belief that stress incontinence is normal, permanent, and somehow something we should find funny. While I applaud the designers of the items for their creativity, I find it a misguided empowerment technique. Sure, own your problem. But why would you want to tell the world about it rather than fix it?
Who can help with stress incontinence?
Pelvic physical therapists have special training and are the top choice for severe stress incontinence cases. Their education about internal anatomy and their access to the best biofeedback tools and devices will laser in on the root cause of your issues.
In severe cases of incontinence, surgery may be required. A good pelvic physical therapist will do everything to help you avoid surgery. Your best chances of not requiring surgery– which has fairly low success rates in terms of patient satisfaction– is to do the exercises your pelvic PT sets out for you.
Your body will not heal itself! To break free of the incontinence myth requires your active and dedicated participation. I freely admit these exercises are not exciting, and no one but you (and perhaps your partner) will ever notice the results of your work. But aren’t you worth it?
If your stress incontinence issues are not severe, you might be a good candidate to work with a personal trainer who is highly educated (and certified) to work with women with stress incontinence. A perinatal personal trainer has the training to know which exercises to avoid, as many common exercises exacerbate stress incontinence. Moreover, a perinatal personal trainer will develop a modified and progressive workout series to help train your muscles to work together again.
While stress incontinence develops due to pelvic floor pressure and weakened abdominal integrity (as in pregnancy) or decreased pelvic floor tension (due to lowering estrogen in menopause), it does not have to be permanent. Seek out the help you need to break free of the incontinence myth and live a leak-free life!