Incontinence: A Problem in Anyone's Language
Did you know that one in three women who have ever had a baby will experience some form of incontinence?
Incontinence includes any accidental or involuntary loss of urine, faeces or wind. While leakage may feel like the last taboo, incontinence is more common that most people realise.
More than 4.8 million Australians are affected, including women of all ages. Hormonal and body changes mean the pelvic floor muscles – the -sling' of muscles that supports the bladder, bowel and uterus – may stretch and weaken. Three key life stages where women experience leakage include: during pregnancy and after having a baby, at midlife and as women age.
The most common types of incontinence are:
Urge incontinence – strong urge to go but difficulty getting there in time
Stress incontinence – leaking when you exert yourself such as coughing
Faecal incontinence – passing faeces or wind or soiling underwear without control
Most cases of incontinence can be improved or even cured. It's important to be properly managed by a health practitioner with training in this area, such as a continence physiotherapist, continence nurse or specialist doctor.
Pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises are not necessarily easy to do correctly. The pelvic floor muscles are complicated muscles that can be difficult to isolate. Practising the wrong technique will not help and can make problems worse.
Research shows that pelvic floor exercise is effective when done correctly. If doing them on your own isn't helping, it's important to see a trained health professional to ensure your technique is correct.
Top tips for a healthy bladder and bowel
Make pelvic floor exercise a priority to strengthen your pelvic floor
Drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day but avoid caffeine as it stimulates the bladder
Maintain an ideal weight and be active every day
Don't smoke – chronic coughing may cause stress incontinence
Eat fibre-rich foods – constipation can affect bladder and bowel function
Avoid heavy lifting and straining to use your bowels
Seek treatment for urinary tract infections
Sit down on the toilet and take your time – don't go -just in case'
Remember that leakage at any age is not normal – seek help if you experience it
Published with the permission of the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women's Health
Tollfree number 1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642) for women seeking further health information www.JeanHailes.org.au