Motherhood is magical. From the first time you set eyes on that faint second line to the day you hold your baby in your arms, pregnancy and childbirth are a roller coaster of pure emotion and excitement. However, along with all the joys of new motherhood come a variety of physical changes that can sometimes be troublesome and frustrating. One of the most common such issues is that of bladder leakage.
How Does Bladder Leakage Happen?
Needless to say, a mother’s body undergoes a great deal of change and trauma throughout both pregnancy and childbirth. After having been stretched and pressed against to support a growing child for 9 months, the pelvic floor is then tasked with allowing a grown baby to pass through it, and with pushing him or her into the world. Is it any question why the pelvic floor muscles might be weak afterward? Even women delivering via cesarean section are not in the clear, research shows that the risk of incontinence remains.
From a medical perspective, bladder leakage occurs when the weakened muscles can no longer support the bladder and constrict the urethra properly. The bladder falls slightly, pushing against the vagina and taking pressure. Then, the same weakened muscles fail to close off the urethra and prevent the flow of urine from the bladder.
Bladder leakage often strikes at the most inconvenient times. Moms often joke that “you can never trust a sneeze,” because it always seems to come with an unwanted guest. Fortunately, there are bladder training exercises that can be done to improve one’s control after childbirth (and make sneezing and coughing simple again).
There’s Nothing to Feel Embarrassed About!
Bladder leakage and urinary incontinence are incredibly common conditions, and not just among women recovering after childbirth. Unfortunately, many women choose to remain quiet about their bladder control problems, leading to a silent epidemic of untreated incontinence and private shame.
There’s really no good reason for this silence; those struggling with urinary incontinence are in good company. In fact, approximately one in five women will experience some level of incontinence or leakage, and the number rises to one in three among women who have had children.
Most individuals suffering from urinary incontinence find some comfort in the use of various discreet incontinence products. While protective adult diapers might have been somewhat bulky and conspicuous in the past, today’s specialized undergarments are thinner, more flexible, and better suited to an active lifestyle. For some women, the use of specialized panty liners and pads also help to capture leakage when it occurs.
Despite the variety of leakage protection products on the market, many women are usually left wishing they could make the problem go away altogether. Fortunately, there is one easy solution that helps to treat the problem at its source: pelvic floor muscle exercises.
Controlling Leakage with Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises
The pelvic floor is a set of muscles that stretch between the front of the pelvic bone and the tailbone, effectively keeping the abdominal organs in their proper place. These muscles are in direct control of the bladder, rectum, small intestine, and uterus.
Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises—or PFME—are one of the simplest and most effective ways to regain significant bladder control after giving birth. Often referred to as Kegel exercises (or simply “Kegels”), these exercises target and tone the muscles of the pelvic floor that control the flow of urine. As a result, women who regularly perform these bladder control exercises find themselves regaining control over leakage and urinary incontinence.
Basic pelvic floor muscle exercises are actually quite simple:
- Identify where the muscles are that you would use to start/stop your urine midstream.
- Tighten those muscles as though you are stopping the flow of urine. Hold them tight for three seconds, then release.
- Repeat 10-15 times per session for three or more sessions per day. Add an additional second of hold time each week.
Pelvic floor exercises are not only easy to perform, but they’re also easy to do in any location, during almost any other activity. These simple, discreet exercises can be done at work, while waiting in line at the pharmacy, during a shower, while driving, while chatting with friends at the coffee shop, etc. Plus, there are no outward signs that you’re performing the exercises (so long as you keep a straight face), so no one will even know you’re doing them! It’s important to remember that many women do not perform these exercises consistently or properly, so they don’t get to experience the full benefits. This is an important reason to pay attention to how to correctly execute them!
After several weeks of performing regular Kegel exercises, the muscles of the bladder become stronger and capable of closing off the urethra more easily on demand. As a result, sneezing, coughing, jogging, and other activities become “safe” once more.
Other Great Benefits of Regular Pelvic Exercise
Bladder retraining isn’t the only reason to get on board with Kegels. Other benefits include:
- The possibility to speed post-partum recovery just as light exercise can help to speed recovery after a broken leg, doing pelvic floor muscle exercises is thought to have a beneficial effect on the speed of recovery after childbirth.
- Easier future childbirth
By strengthening the pelvic muscles between children, a woman can have an easier delivery next time (due to an improved ability to “push”).
- Reduction in back pain
Because the pelvic floor muscles are connected to the tailbone and support all of the lower abdomen, better muscle tone also means better lower back support and reduced incidence of back pain.
- Easier evacuation
The ability to “push” isn’t just used for childbirth, of course. Improvement of pelvic floor muscle function can also help the body evacuate solid waste more easily.
- Improved sexual function and satisfaction
This is easily everyone’s favorite benefit of pelvic floor muscle exercises. Since these muscles are directly related to the function of the sexual organs, toning them up can take romantic rendezvous to the next level for both partners.
- Reduced risk of future age-related incontinence
Doing pelvic exercises from child-bearing years and beyond can help to prevent the risk of urinary incontinence as a senior, when it generally becomes more common due to age-related muscle weakening and deterioration.
Do You Need to Do Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises?
The best way to know if you have weak pelvic floor muscles is to pay attention to their function when you try to stop the flow of your urine. If you have a hard time stopping it and find yourself continuing to dribble somewhat, there’s a good chance your muscles could use some weak bladder exercises. With the help of Pericoach, you will find that your weak bladder symptoms will diminish!
Get Your Pelvic Floor into Shape with PeriCoach
Although anyone can do pelvic floor muscle exercises without much trouble, it’s not always easy to keep up with regular sessions. As with any kind if exercise regimen, sometimes it’s useful to have some way to keep track of your hard work. Enter PeriCoach, a unique FDA-cleared system of PFME tracking that promises results in as few as 8 weeks.
PeriCoach also comes with a specialized phone app (Android or iPhone) that helps you to visualize and digitally record your exercises with on-screen instructions. Measurements are taken via a small pelvic floor training sensor that can be inserted safely and easily. As you perform each pelvic floor muscle exercise, the sensor registers the squeeze and sends the data to your phone, where you visually see the performance feedback as you're guided through a series of exercises. The information is stored so you may track your progress over time, sharing with a clinician if you chose.
If you’d like to work bladder retraining exercises into your postpartum recovery plan but aren’t sure how to make it routine, let PeriCoach take over the details. To learn more about how PeriCoach works, to purchase the program and/or get a wireless biosensor for app use, contact us on [email protected].