Fortunately I have not had any personal experience with bladder control problems- yet. However, there are plenty of women out there with this issue- the data says 1 in 3 women will have bladder control issues and your risk of incontinence later in life increases the longer you experience it postpartum. Bladder issues come in many forms from a complete lack of control, to a constant urge to pee even if there's nothing there, to the occasional leak when you sneeze, cough, laugh, or pick up your stroller. This is a topic that no one likes to talk about (uncomfortable!) but more often than not someone in your group of mom-friends is dealing with it- maybe even you(?).
There are lots of products and interventions out there for women with uncontrolled peeing and leaking issues- from adult diapers, to surgery, to pessaries (google it- you'll be shocked), to bladder training, and so forth and so on. None of it sounds particularly pleasant.
I recently learned that there is a new product that is perfect for active and/or pregnant moms- pretty panties with built-in light leak protection. The product is called STRIDE Femme™ and if you're peeing your way through Stroller Strides class this might be the product for you.
But I digress... the real question is: how do we prevent or start to repair pelvic floor damage done by pregnancy, childbirth, and age?
For many new moms, doing pelvic floor strengthening exercises, or Kegel exercises, will reduce or eliminate incontinence! If you've never done them before- here is a brief description (some excerpted from Lisa Druxman's book, "Lean Mommy") and you can always ask your Doctor or Midwife to help you verify that you are exercising the correct muscles during your regular checkup too.
First we need to isolate the muscle that you should contract during this exercise. While you're peeing tighten up your muscles to stop the flow of urine. THAT is the muscle you should contract when you're doing Kegel exercises. OK- resume peeing because the toilet isn't the place to practice on a regular basis as it may irritate your urethra and cause other urinary issues.
So now that you know where the muscle is and what it feels like to squeeze it- it is time to exercise! Squeezing these muscles in 3 different ways will help you train all of the muscle fibers effectively.
1. Hold the squeeze without letting go for as long as you can, gradually working up to longer and longer time spans- but don't hold your breath!
2. Squeeze hard and then completely relax, turn some music on and squeeze to the beat. Breathe normally and work your way up to 20 reps. This would be an easy one to practice in your car at red lights- squeezing to the beat on the radio!
3. Speed up the contractions- do a lighter but faster squeeze-release.
As an added bonus- many women report enhanced sexual functioning- bring on the next baby!