I read an article titled, ‘The hidden medical problem few women will talk about,” in our local paper (originally published in The Washington Post), that I found to be exciting and discouraging to read.
I was excited that the conversation of incontinence and prolapse was happening in such a public forum, but discouraged at the same time because so many women suffer from incontinence and organ prolapse, but not many know that they’re not alone, that something can be done about it, and that surgery isn’t the only solution.
(In short, the article talks about the billion-dollar business of surgeries to prevent or reduce incontinence and organ prolapse. A couple of therapists in VA mention in the article that they have patients who travel more than 100 miles for rehabilitative care because there are so few providers who care for this issue.
Though I am thankful that there is a surgery that is helpful, my mission is to teach women and others that there is help beyond surgery.
Hope beyond surgery
Pregnancy, childbirth, and age are all factors that contribute to a weakened pelvic floor which can result in incontinence and organ prolapse.
I have worked with many women over the last 12 years, the majority of them moms, but one day during a session, while listening to a familiar story my client was sharing about leaking while jumping, it hit me. This is serious and it’s happening to too many women. I feel like women are ignoring it because they don’t know what to do about it or they feel that it just comes with the territory of having children and being a woman. I want to educate women about how to prevent and rehabilitate incontinence, and support them with any emotional effects it can have on them.
As someone who specializes in pelvic floor strengthening, I ask my clients if they were given any information about how to strengthen their body after childbirth. Most reply that their doctor didn’t share any tips with them about what to do or where to go to rehab. Some may have been advised to practice their Kegel contractions, but that’s about it.
(by the way, in most European countries, women receive physical therapy after childbirth.)
It’s Not Too Late
It’s never too late to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Whether you had a child 5-months ago or 15 years ago, you can still strengthen your pelvic floor in hopes of avoiding more serious ailments or surgery. There may be some cases severe enough to require surgery, but if you allow enough time and consistency to strengthen, I’m a firm believer that you can avoid it.
More Than Just Kegels
So here’s what you do. By strengthening your deep abdominal muscles, your outer hips, which include your smaller gluteus muscles, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, and your pelvic floor you can prevent and/or rehabilitate incontinence and organ prolapse.
Once you’ve been given the OK from your Dr. to exercise, which is usually 6-weeks postpartum, find a fantastic Pilates instructor who will walk you through some deep abdominal-connecting exercises. She’s going to help you build or rebuild a strong physical foundation so that you can live, mother, care-take, and work safely.
We need our abdominals to support us in so many ways. For example: Posture. Pregnancy and nursing can contribute to poor posture, and when not remedied, we may experience neck pain, backache, and more.
After childbirth, it’s very important to rebuild a strong foundation before getting back into your regular workout routine. If you didn’t have a regular workout routine prior to or during your pregnancy, it’s especially important for you.
As a mother of 3, plus having my daughters so close together I know how exhausting the early stages of motherhood can be; and as a Pilates instructor, I’ve seen what happens to moms when they don’t take the time to care for themselves.
Maybe you now have teenagers or adult-aged children, if you’ve never rehabbed after giving birth or after having had a Cesarean section, it’s ok, but yes you would greatly benefit from it.
At this point, you may be experiencing physical symptoms such as backache, neck pain, poor balance, knee pain, or poor posture. By strengthening your hips and abdominals you can alleviate a lot of this. You may also begin to notice that you leak when you sneeze, laugh, exercise or jump.
Kate Winslet, Brooke Burke-Charvet, and Lena Dunham are talking about their pee problems and I’m so grateful.
Brooke Burke-Charvet is starring in commercials for Poise pads for bladder leakage; she’s had 4 kids, she gets it, and she’s also only in her mid-forties.
Another product I’ve seen on TV is a tampon-like product to insert for absorption. Leakage is happening to more women than it should be, and at a younger age.
At this point, women may think that there’s no hope. Sure, it may take a little more work, but I believe in the power of practice and exercise. We’re talking about muscles people, just keep moving them and they will strengthen. It’s an amazing concept really.
Drug stores such as Rite Aid have an entire aisle dedicated to incontinence. We’ve now gone from a thin panty liner to an adult diaper.
I realize that the older generation maybe a little more modest or too embarrassed to talk about their leak issues, but I’m really hoping to change that. Starting the conversation is the just the beginning. Women need to know that’s there no shame in this, and the more that we talk about it the more women we can help.
It’s not just a physical issue; it can be an emotional issue too. Women are embarrassed by that fact that it’s even happening to them; they fear laughing too hard, or sneezing, and even worse, women are staying home from the gym because they can’t jump or lift for fear of peeing their pants. Not okay. Not living life in fear of wetting your pants is not okay.
I truly believe in the power of Pilates. A consistent Pilates practice will change your life. I say this all the time because it’s true!
If you have questions about how to prevent incontinence or organ prolapse feel free to email me. If you’d like to work with me one on one to strengthen your pelvic floor, you can join me at my studio in Grover Beach, CA or online via live video.