Life is busy! Work, Playdates, Mom and Baby Fitness Classes, walks in the park – moms everywhere are connecting in a variety of ways to share stories and bond through the spit ups, the sleepless nights and the struggles of motherhood. Conversations typically revolve around the children, marking milestones, demonstrating new habits, and sharing laughs about the joys and the trials of being a mom.
The reality is, most of these moms are leaking when they laugh.
While it is common to leak urine, it is not normal but media and many health care professionals tell us that it is ‘normal after having kids’ or that it is something that just ‘happens as you age’. Women wear a pad every day and accept their fate but I am here to tell you that you can ditch the pads and live a leak free life!
Motherhood is all consuming and moms often prioritize others instead of themselves. When the leaks start it is easy to simply put a panty liner in and carry on. Almost unconsciously, women start to go to the bathroom a little more often in hopes of minimizing the leaks. They don’t notice much improvement so they start drinking less thinking that with less fluid in the bladder it won’t leak as much. They still don’t notice much improvement so decide to accept it as normal. And so they carry on wearing pads, emptying their bladders too often and drinking less while trying to ignore the problem.
Leaking urine when you laugh or run or sneeze or any other time when you are not sitting on a toilet wanting to pee is not normal, it is common but not normal. The good news is that it is very treatable.
Treatment can depend a bit on what is contributing to the incontinence and what type of incontinence it is.
There are different types of incontinence with Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) and Urge Incontinence (UI) being the most common.
SUI is classified as the involuntary loss or urine upon exertion such as coughing or sneezing or running. Urge incontinence is classified as an intense urge to void even with a bladder that is not completely full.
SUI can be from weak pelvic floor muscles that are underused but it can also develop from chronically contracted muscles that become weak from overuse and are not able to do their job of closing the sphincters as well as they should.
SUI responds well to pelvic floor exercise, posture adjustments and breath work. The type of exercise will be dependent on if the muscles are weak from underuse or weak from overuse. Seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist can help you learn about your pelvic floor and how best to exercise it.
UI may be a result of nerve damage sustained during pregnancy or childbirth, it may also develop from unhealthy elimination habits. Remember the mom who started to go more often to try and prevent leaks? By emptying her bladder before it is full, she will start to interfere with the messaging between the brain and the bladder. The bladder will start to send “I’m full’ signals to the brain more often and sooner than it should and soon she is making plans around where she will be able to go to the bathroom and she will start avoiding activities in which she isn’t able to go to the bathroom often.
She may also restrict fluids to try and avoid the need to pee and while it seems to logical to drink less water – less liquid means less peeing – by restricting her water intake her urine will become more concentrated which will then irritate the bladder which will then increase the urgency and frequency.
A healthy elimination schedule is between 5 – 9 times a day and no more than once at night. Typically every 2-4 hours is how often you should pee. Drinking caffeinated beverages, ingesting products with artificial sweeteners, acidic foods and alcohol can irritate the bladder and make you go more often so avoiding them can help control the urgency and reduce the frequency.
Kegels have long been the recommendation for women dealing with pelvic floor challenges. Kegels are very effective if done correctly. The trouble is, verbally telling someone to do kegels is not effective.
Kegels are a voluntary contraction/lift of the pelvic floor followed by a relaxation or letting go of that contract/lift. Many women actually squeeze their glutes and/or inner thighs instead of their pelvic floor muscles. In fact, over 50% of women do kegels incorrectly so it is no wonder people think they don’t work.
It is important to understand that a kegel is a balance between effort and ease. Many focus so much on the contract and forget about the relax so even if they are doing them correctly, by only doing the contract they aren’t effectively solving the problem.
Kegels are best coordinated with the breath. Here is a quick visualization for you to try. Sit tall with an awareness of your vulva on the surface of the chair. Ensuring you are not slouching or sitting back on your tailbone.
As you inhale imagine your vulva blossoming. Yes, you read that right. Inhale and expand and let go of tension between your sitz bones, in your glutes and allow your vulva to soften and gently blossom.
As you exhale, purse your lips as if you are blowing out a candle and then imagine picking up a blueberry with your vagina and your anus (yes, you also read that right).
Inhale and blossom while allowing the blueberry to release … as a blueberry, not blueberry juice.
Many think harder is better and will squeeze their pelvic floor with maximal effort. Back up your effort and use just enough force to imagine lifting up a blueberry and then put it back down again.
Kegels need to be done correctly, consistently and coordinated with movement. Doing kegels at every red light or while sitting watching tv is better than nothing but you need to learn how to kegel while lifting and doing other activities of daily living.
A set of 10, 10 second holds coordinated with the breath is a good start and then aim to add 20 more reps into your day while standing in line at the grocery store, watching your kids activities, waiting for coffee…you get the idea.
When first getting started it can be tough to remember to do them every day let alone try and bring them into daily movement.
I have created an online kegel challenge that lasts 28 days, is app based with daily reminders and not only teaches you how to exercise your pelvic floor but how to bring your kegels into movement.
It is incredibly effective and many participants are leak free or close to it by day 14! If you feel inspired, it is a great wait to get started and for the Master Your Motherhood community you can use coupon code kegelmaster and save $10 (making the challenge only $17)
You don’t have to accept pads as your destiny. Leak free living IS possible and by paying attention to your pelvic floor, your confidence will soar, motherhood seems easier and your relationships will benefit as well.
Kim Vopni - Pelvic Floor Coach
Kim Vopni is a pelvic floor coach, who offers a wide variety of courses and coaching programs to help you optimize your pelvic health in pregnancy, motherhood and menopause. She is on a mission to break through taboos and redefine how we think about women’s health.