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30 to 40% of women will experience some form of incontinence during their lifetime, so although it’s often not something openly discussed, incontinence should not be a matter of embarrassment or shame.
Advertisements suggest that ladies purchase special pads designed for light bladder leakage and confidently go about their business, knowing they can sneeze, laugh or lift heavy things and have protection from embarrassing wet spots. Padding the issue if you will.
Although bladder leakage is a fairly normal occurrence, it is also not something that women simply need to put up with.
After her first natural labour 21 years ago Annette Lincoln* noticed that her ability to hold her urine on the way to the toilet had lessoned. Three babies later, with the last one being breech, and the issue has become quite prominent.
“I had always been a bit leaky. For as long as I can remember I leak if I can't get to the toilet on time. But it has become a lot worse since I had my breach child, who is now five-years-old. I wear a liner every day just in case, because it happens a lot,” says Annette.
“I try to remember pelvic floor exercises but I suck at this big time. I'd love to try one of those internal things (pelvic floor device) because I think it would be a great habit to get into.”
Not only women who have had natural labours are susceptible to incontinence. According to women’s health practitioner and physiotherapist at Better Health, Suzie Williams explains.
“Pregnancy, despite ending in vaginal delivery or C-section, places load on the pelvic floor throughout the duration. The load that the baby and surrounding fluid places on the pelvic floor is significant,” says Suzie.
“Similarly, the pelvic floor muscles can be affected, or weakened, by being overweight, chronic constipation, lots of heavy lifting, menopause and age.”
Pelvic floor exercises are recommended for everyone – men included.
Maintaining a strong pelvic floor is not only good for our water works but also helps with good sexual function, however, as with all exercise consistency is key.
“Weakness of the pelvic floor muscles manifests like any other group of muscles. The 'use it or lose it' term most certainly applies,” tells Suzie.
“Once there has been a disruption of the strength in the muscle, this can often be rectified with exercise, just like any other muscle as well.”
Kegel exercises are a very effective when used correctly but doing them properly that is an issue for many women. Enter the pelvic floor training device.
PeriCoach, Mediballs, Kegelmaster and Elvie are just a few of the devices available on the market to help you achieve iron-clad status… but do they work?
“They are a wonderful tool to be used in changing the function of the pelvic floor,” Suzie tells. “The feedback provided allows women the reassurance and knowledge that they are contracting the pelvic floor in the correct way.”
After two natural labours the state of my pelvic floor wasn’t shameful, but high-intensity exercise reminded me that my pelvic floor was not what it used to be, and dry knickers whilst trampolining was but a daydream.
I was sent the PeriCoach system to trial and I was impressed with the technology.
The PeriCoach combines a pelvic floor training sensor, that you insert vaginally and squeeze against, with app on your smartphone.
The inserted device spoke to an app on my phone and told me exactly what was going on "down there".
Being able to see the progression and the strength building of my pelvic floor gave me something to work towards. I noticed a difference quite quickly when I maintained it daily.
So, would everyone benefit from such a device?
Pelvic floor strength is only one component of bladder control and if you have other contributing factors such as prolapse or an overactive bladder you should seek professional help to work out the best option for you to regain control of your bladder.
Written by Danielle Colley