I never really paid much attention to my bladder until I had my daughter. Well, that’s not completely true. When I was about 11 years old, I once heard my friend say – “your bladder can get slacked if you don’t pee when you’ve got to pee.” Wait, so I can involuntarily pee my pants if my bladder muscles are no longer working? Because they are “slacked?”
I freaked out and never held my pee again.
Let’s fast forward to postpartum. After becoming a certified pre/postnatal fitness specialist, one of my goals was to research why the pelvic floor muscles undergo so much stress during pregnancy and beyond. Why am I leaking involuntarily? Will this last forever? I only sneezed or laughed, and my undies are wet. Is this normal because I had a baby?
Research shows that 1 in 3 women will experience bladder problems such as urinary incontinence if they have had at least one child. During pregnancy, the body produces hormones that stretch the muscles and tissues that make up your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor houses three important organs (vagina, bladder & rectum). The openings of these organs are called sphincters, which are crucial to the functioning of your pelvic floor. A weak pelvic floor may be because some or all of these sphincters not working properly.
Below are some tips to help improve your bladder health and reduce urinary incontinence.
1. Eating right: eating the right foods will not only improve your health but also target areas in your body that keep your bladder healthy. For example, foods that contain caffeine should be eliminated or at least reduced drastically from your diet as caffeine is a bladder stimulant. Adding more whole foods like vegetables, fiber and fruits that contain a lot of water (e.g, watermelon) that are not high in citrus content go a long way in keeping your bladder happy and not so irritable.
2. Exercise: Keeping a healthy weight puts less strain on the bladder and reduces urinary incontinence significantly. Maintaining a healthy BMI body mass index helps with bladder control. Taking walks and engaging in simple exercise routines go a long way. Checkout the PPCORE, foundation programs and nutrition book (LIM guide) on the website https://loveandgracewellness.
3. Bladder training: you can work on consciously strengthening the muscles in the bladder by engaging in simple short exercises such as quick squeezes similar to kegels. Kegels are a quick and effective way of reminding your bladder muscles how to function. To practice this, use the toilet and in the middle of peeing, pause and hold the release of urine. Now go one to completely empty your bladder and practice that hold and release for a few seconds. Repeat this a few times a day for a few seconds. This simple exercise can help build muscle strength and improve bladder performance. To learn more about the types of pelvic floor exercises you can do, visit the PPCORE 1 eCourse via the website (www.loveandgracewellness.com). This course offers useful material on your postpartum recovery journey alongside exercises.
4. Surgery: this should only be considered in severe circumstances after speaking about your options with your doctor. After having a child some women may experience some form of POP (pelvic organ prolapse), which occurs when muscles or tissues of the pelvic floor become weak to support the pelvic floor organs (vagina, bladder, rectum), causing any of these organs to shift out of their normal position.
· Avoid foods and drinks that are high in sugar and caffeine as these will irritate the bladder
· Exercise at least 3 times a week by engaging in gentle exercises that are effective for your pelvic floor. The PPCORE 1 program is a great place to start
· Adopt healthier habits like avoid smoking, maintaining good posture, choosing healthier foods, exercising often, staying hydrated
· Avoid holding your pee. Go to the toilet when you get the urge to
· Keep your mental health in check and seek support when needed
November is bladder health month. I hope this piece was able to shed some light on this topic.
Below is a clip on types of urinary incontinence one may face postpartum. Knowing the type of urinary incontinence you might be dealing with can help you address the problem carefully. Always seek medical advice from your doctor before taking part in any recovery program.
Much love, Wande