Leaking .. Is it Normal ?
When I started writing this it was intended to go in the postnatal section. And then I realised that really, this is an issue that’s relevant to so many more of us and shouldn’t just be talked about in that specific time just after you’ve had a baby
Whether you’ve just had a baby and are finding yourself leaking when you sneeze, or you had babies years ago and find yourself avoiding the trampoline with the kids at any cost, pelvic floor issues can affect so many of us.
Yes it’s a bit embarrassing, so either we make light of it and laugh off that recent bladder evacuation, while bulk buying Tena Lady, or we just keep quiet and suffer in silence. Because, let’s face it, we all get told that pelvic floor problems are just ‘normal’ because we’ve had kids. We’ve normalised leaking, so it’s become something we just accept and never really talk about. But what’s the real truth?
Leaking is common – loads of us have experienced it at some point. But it’s absolutely not ‘normal’ and it certainly shouldn’t be something we have to put up with. And it’s even more important that it’s dealt with early, because bladder incontinence is something that can get worse as you hit the menopause.
Unfortunately, this is also one of those things where there is no one-size-fits-all answer as the reasons for your leaking could be different.For one person it could be a weak pelvic floor, for another it could be an overactive or tight pelvic floor – so while the person with a weak pelvic floor would need to do more traditional strengthening work, for the second person, that wouldn’t actually help their situation.
There are a few things you can do
1. First off, if you are leaking, but haven’t been doing your kegels (or pelvic floor exercises) then get started. Next time you go to the toilet stop the flow of wee mid flow – these are the muscles you need to be lifting. Don’t practice these on the toilet regularly though as that can lead to bladder infections. Once you’ve located those muscles, practice lifting them a few times slowly and a few times quickly and build up to doing that a few times a day. However, if you have been doing loads of them to no effect, stop for a while and focus on the other steps.
2. Learn to relax the pelvic floor and core muscles, as some of us have a tendency to hold on with those muscles which means the pelvic floor becomes tight which can also lead to leaking. Do this at a quiet time during the day and concentrate on relaxing on the in breath – try not to push down at all though.
3. Learn to breathe properly, as if you tend to breathe into your tummy or into the top of your chest, you can increase the pressure on the pelvic floor. Instead, think about breathing into the sides and back of the ribs – you can put your hands on the ribs to check.
4. Avoid jumping, heavy lifting (including weights) and running for a while as all of that will increase pressure on the pelvic floor – it certainly won’t improve the situation and could make it worse or undo any of the good work you’re doing. Try not to go back to any of this until you’ve made some progress with eliminating the leaking.
Of course, every person is an individual and, ultimately, different strategies may work better for different people.
So, if you’re at all unsure or feel like you’ve doing all the right things to little effect, seek the help of a professional. A women’s health physiotherapist is a great start as they can get to the root of the problem and give you strategies which will work for you. And, obviously, a personal trainer with a knowledge of dealing with issues like this can help you to implement those strategies and start to train your pelvic floor to function well day to day.
Whatever you do, please don’t suffer this in silence – you really needn’t put up with leaking and it really is possible to lead a life without a mortal fear of sneezing and trampolines!