Do you ever feel anxious about going out for dinner, to the gym, or even a trip to the supermarket because you have occasional (or frequent) bladder leaks? If you do, you might be experiencing urinary incontinence,1 a common condition that causes frequent urges to use the bathroom and potentially embarrassing leakage.
Incontinence can affect anyone, but it tends to affect women more than men, primarily because of the physical stresses of pregnancy and childbirth. Menopause and surgeries including hysterectomies2 can affect it, too. Fact is, incontinence can strike any woman at any time in her life, so if you’re experiencing its symptoms, know that you aren’t alone.
Though incontinence is not always preventable, there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk of getting it. If you are already experiencing symptoms, there are ways you can manage them. This includes strengthening your pelvic floor — the muscles used to control your urine flow and bowels.
3 types of incontinence.
When your pelvic floor weakens, your risk for incontinence increases. There are a number of ways these muscles lose some of their strength — from pregnancy and childbearing to major surgeries or even the start of menopause.3 If you’re at the gym every day, a muscle strain can cause incontinence, too. There are three types of incontinence, including:
- Stress incontinence4 happens due to pressure on your bladder. Anything from sneezing or lifting heavy objects, to working out and exercising can cause it. It’s sometimes caused by pregnancy as the growing baby pushes on the bladder.
- Urge incontinence5 is usually caused by nerve or muscle injuries and gives you sudden, strong urges to urinate. Additionally, neurological and musculoskeletal illnesses or even diabetes can be to blame.
- Mixed incontinence6 means that you experience symptoms caused by a combination of both stress and urge incontinence.
Kegel exercises can help. Here’s how.
Kegels are a type of exercise specifically designed to strengthen your pelvic floor and can reduce the risk of experiencing incontinence symptoms. Kegel exercises include a process of identifying the targeted pelvic muscles and then “squeezing” them. No need for weights or a gym membership - Kegels are quick, easy and you can do them at home.
So how can you get started with Kegels? The following is an easy to use guide for beginning Kegel exercises.
Kegel Exercise Guide7:
- Find your pelvic muscles.
Next time you need to urinate, try to pause your flow midstream a few times. Stop and start again, and pay attention to the muscles you’re using. Those are the same muscles you’ll be strengthening when you do your Kegel exercises.
- Begin the exercise.
To start, find a comfortable position.8 You can choose to sit, stand, or lie down - Kegels can be performed in just about any position.9 If you choose to sit, you may want to try a gel contour cushion that takes pressure off your bones and hips as the cushion’s grid structure continually adjusts to your every move. If you find it difficult to stay in the perfect position the whole time, try using these soft positioning wedges to help keep your focus on your exercises.
- Focus on your pelvic muscles.
While practicing your exercises, it’s important to concentrate only on your pelvic floor muscles. Be sure to avoid squeezing your stomach, thigh muscles or your buttocks when you’re tightening your pelvic floor. It may help to put your hand on your stomach so that you can tell if you’re accidentally using your abdominal muscles.10
- Exercise every day.
In order to get the most out of your exercises, repeat them a few times each day.11 As you continue to practice, start to hold your “squeezes” for a few seconds at a time. Try adding more repetitions each week, until you can do 30 or 40 Kegels a day.12 Be sure to rest in between exercises and not to squeeze too hard or hold until it becomes uncomfortable.
Take back your confidence.
If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence, it’s not unusual. Women of all ages and walks of life can experience incontinence throughout their lives. Whether you’re a new mother, going through menopause, or simply notice occasional leakage after a workout at the gym, there’s a solution.
Along with Kegel exercises help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, look into absorbent underwear or liners to help control your symptoms in a way that’s both comfortable and empowering. There are a wide range of specially-designed products to choose from, like discreet FitRight liners featuring odor and extra leak protection, or thin, body-contoured ultra-protective underwear with anti-leak guards and a discreet, secure fit.
Find your confidence and take control. Freedom from your incontinence symptoms can be just around the corner.