09 May Incontinence in women – how to rehab your pelvic floor
Recently, I have been seen alot on social media of wonder-women athletes returning to sport or exercise after the birth of their little ones.
Here is a caption snippet from one of the featured athletes at 6 months post partum; with an image of her crossing the finish line of a half marathon:
“I wanted to savor this moment in the finishing stretch, freeze time and look back over the last two years with having kids: the months of sleep deprivation, hours of corrective exercises and pelvic/core work, bouts of mastitis, poop my pants runs, bladder incontinence, and the days of questioning is it all worth it and will it ever come back to me?”
Poop my pants runs?! Bladder incontinence?! Hmm.
This article was written in a wonderfully empowering and inspirational way for readers – supportive of this athlete and her journey back to fitness. I love that we are supportive of our female athletes – and yes – we should support and nurture women in sport and women post partum to return to activity. These ladies are super mums!
All of my post-natal clients, who are juggling mum duties and exercise are super mums!
There is no rush. We need to help our post partum mums return to exercise, activity and sport in a way that helps them recover and which supports them both short term and long term.
As a clinician, what concerns me so much with these kinds of posts in the media is the normalisation of issues like incontinence, and an acceptance or, a mindset, that this is just how it is now.
Oops you’re a mum now, get used to wetting yourself when exercising because that’s just what happens.
Stress incontinence – that is leaking urine or faeces with sneezing, coughing, laughing, exercise, is common for new mums. 1 in 3 women will experience incontinence.
But we must be careful not to use common and normal interchangeably.
Just because you are a mum now, it doesn’t mean you have to live with incontinence. Leaking urine when exercising does NOT have to be your new norm.
Here are the facts ladies:
- Your body needs 6 months to recover from pregnancy & birth, and to be fully restored to pre-pregnant physiology.
- 6 months is the length of time needed for complete restoration of connective tissue support. This includes restoration of muscle tone and connective tissue to the ‘pre-pregnant’ state.
- If you are breastfeeding – extend this time frame for as long as you continue to breastfeed.
Think of it like an ankle sprain injury. If you sustained an injury, you would want to initially rest, and immobilise. You would then be best off to perform 6-12 weeks of rehabilitation. Before very slowly – across several months – return to higher intensity exercise. This is the amount of time your physiology requires to repair, strengthen and heal.
If you did nothing about it – and continued to run on a sprained ankle – things would not improve (in fact I’d say they would get worse!)
This is what we are finding with stress induced incontinence (SUI). Mothers are accepting it as normal – and not seeking help. Women with persistent SUI at three months post partum have a 92% risk of having still have SUI at five years later. This statistic tells us that if you do not do anything about SUI, it will not improve.
So what can you do?
Stop that mums & bubs exercise class that has you leaking through burpees, or your running route that has you running for the toilet – and come and see us!
An exercise prescription from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist can make a huge difference to your pelvic floor.
Clinical exercise prescription and rehabilitation is the best way to return to activity, exercise and sport. Safely & effectively, with exercise tailored for you! We prescribe smart exercise that will help you regain strength in the muscular tissues through your abdomen and core. In the mean time, you can also consider incontinence products whilst you’re waiting for your consultation to develop the muscles surrounding your colon.