Women who struggle with incontinence may not be experiencing accidents but would admit that there is an increased frequency and urgency when it comes to emptying the bladder. The increase in marketed incontinence products is proof that this is a growing women’s health concern. Women are starting to become more aware that there is help for pelvic floor issues. Many physical therapists are now getting extra training to specialize in this field.
The Tummy Team works with women to help restore the core and pelvic floor function. Incontinence is a common problem that often accompanies the other symptoms that our clients complain about. Aside from the necessary rehab to restore pelvic floor function, there are some external factors that may be contributing to your incontinence.
Here are five things you didn’t know could be making things worse:
1. Holding Your Breath
Try noticing your breathing the next time you stand up from the chair, or you are stuck in traffic. Are you holding your breath? Does your body seem to be bracing or holding tension? Increased abdominal pressure is related to increased pelvic pressure, which will eventually lead to incontinence. The inability to efficiently use our breathing during times of stress and increased pressure can affect our ability to control our bladder and pelvic floor muscles. When it comes to lifting and high impact activities, it is our inability to regulate our breathing that often leads to the loss of control.
2. Our Favorite Drinks
In our pursuit to have a productive life, it has become very common for us to reach out for coffee and other substances. Not only does coffee consumption increase production of urine, but it can lead to overactive contractions in the muscles we use to void. Women who consume three cups or more of coffee every day have a 70% chance of bladder issues. In fact, some experts are now saying that urinary incontinence has no links to body mass index, vaginal deliveries or water intake.
There are, of course, other beverages that may affect bladder and pelvic floor function. Carbonated beverages contain bladder irritants such as acidic carbonation, citric and phosphoric acids, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners. Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic and therefore can lead to increased urine production. So, before we blame our incontinence on our birth experience, weight gain or lack of exercise, let’s take a look at the drinks we are consuming and see if that will make a difference.
Antidepressants and antihistamines are becoming more common prescriptions in our households. Read the labels and check with your doctor to see if your incontinence may be a side effect. Some side effects for these medications include constipation, which causes increased pressure in the pelvic cavity, interference with bladder contractions, and bladder retention leading to overflow incontinence.
Nasal decongestants containing pseudoephedrine can cause the urinary sphincter to tighten, bladder retention, and lead to uncontrollable leakage of small amounts of urine. Even though some of these medications are available now without a prescription, we need to carefully monitor our usage and be aware of the side effects that can occur with using them.
4. Chronic Constipation
This is probably one of the least expected contributing factors of incontinence. When a person has a history of straining during bowel movements, it can lead to an imbalance and weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. This causes a loss of control when we need our muscles to respond. Additionally, full bowels will press against the bladder causing you to feel the urge to urinate more frequently. It can also block your flow of urine, causing your bladder to overflow when you are unable to hold back any longer.
5. Not Enough Rest
Rest is highly undervalued in our society but this recovery time is essential for a body to rebuild. Resting in a horizontal, unloaded position helps the pelvic floor heal so that it can once again be activated in the vertical position when gravity pulls on it. The body needs rest to repair injured tissues and replenish energy stores. Additionally, a lack of physical rest will also affect our sleep and hormone production. Needless to say, the efficiency and endurance of our pelvic floor function depend on this recovery time. So, if you need an excuse to make your husband put the kids to bed, tell him your pelvic floor needs to rest!
While modifying some of your lifestyle choices can help reduce your risk of leaking, you may still need to have a specialist guide you to become more aware of your pelvic floor muscles and restore its function. Our approach to pelvic floor rehabilitation has helped hundreds of women find independence and joy in the daily activities they thought they would have had to give up. Don’t let incontinence stop you from living your life to its fullest.